Hearing Loss Prevention
Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Excessive noise damages the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. This damage results in permanent hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing of the ears). A single shot from a shotgun, experienced at close range, may permanently damage hearing in an instant. Repeated exposures to loud noises may, over an extended period of time, present serious risks to hearing.
Research shows 10 million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise and 30 million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day. The effects of noise on hearing are often underestimated because the damage takes place so gradually. Engaging in common recreational activities and noisy occupations can cause noise induced hearing loss.
Recreational Activities with Dangerous Noise Levels
- gun shots
- fire crackers
- iPods and MP3 players
- dance clubs
- music concerts
- sporting events
- home power tools
- motor boats
- cars with loud music
- movie theaters
- video arcades
Occupations with Dangerous Noise Levels
- police officers
- factory workers
- construction workers
- military personnel
- heavy industry workers
- entertainment industry professionals
When is Loud too Loud? Warning signs of the presence of hazardous noise:
- You have to raise your voice to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within an arm’s length away.
- You can’t hear someone three feet away in the presence of noise.
- You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy environment.
- You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.
- You experience a plugged or muffled sensation in hearing after exposure to loud noise.
- You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to loud noise (you can hear people talking but you cannot understand them).
How To Protect Your Hearing
- Limit exposure time to noisy recreational activities.
- If you work in an at-risk occupation check with your employer to make sure you have adequate hearing protection according to OSHA regulations.
- Wear hearing protection. Foam or silicone plugs are available at most retail stores and pharmacies. Hearing protection ear muffs can be purchased at sporting good stores or safety equipment stores. Custom made hearing protection can be ordered from an audiologist.
- At home turn down the volume on the television, radio, stereos and IPods and MP3 players.
- Wear earplugs or muffs when using loud equipment (i.e. lawn mowers, power saws, leaf blowers).
Buy quieter home products such as vacuums, blenders, hair dryers, lawn mowers. Compare the dB ratings on the products, the smaller dB the better. Reduce the number of noisy appliances running at the same time in your personal environment. Avoid medications and chemicals that can be dangerous to your hearing.
An Ounce of Prevention
Be alert to hazardous noise. Since prevention is so critical, make sure that your family (especially children), friends, and colleagues are aware of the hazards of noise. Remember: One-third of hearing loss is preventable with proper hearing protection.