It’s the New Year, which for the majority of us means vowing to eat better, work out more, and save more money. But we might consider adding to this list the resolution to protect our hearing.
In 2016, we saw an abundance of reports regarding the growing epidemic of hearing loss. The World Health Organization has alerted us that billions of people are at risk from exposure to loud noise levels at work, at home, and at play.
We also found out that even teenagers are at risk, as the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 90s.
The bottom line is that our hearing can be compromised at work, while attending live shows, and even at home through the use of earbuds and headphones played at elevated volumes.
For 2017, let’s all start off on the right track by making some simple resolutions to protect and preserve our hearing health.
1. Know how loud is too loud
First of all, how can you know how loud is too loud, and how can you know when your hearing is at risk?
To start with, sound is measured in units called decibels. As the decibel level increases, the intensity level of the sound increases together with the risk of hearing injury.
Here’s a list of sounds with their matching decibel levels. Note that anything above 85 decibels can potentially harm your hearing with repeated exposure.
- Whisper in a tranquil library – 30 decibels (dB)
- Normal conversation – 60 dB
- City traffic – 85 dB
- Jackhammer at 50 feet – 95 dB
- Motorcycle – 100 dB
- MP3 player at max volume – 100+ dB
- Power saw at three feet – 110 dB
- Loud rock concert – 115 dB
- 12-Gauge Shotgun Blast – 165 dB
Remember that with the decibel scale, a 10 dB increase is perceived by the human ear as being twice as loud. That means that a rock concert at 110 dB is 32 times louder than a normal conversation at 60 dB.
2. Safeguard your ears
Hearing damage is dependent on three factors: 1) the volume or intensity of the sound, 2) the period of time subjected to the sound, and 3) the distance between your ears and the sound source.
That means, in general, there are three ways you can protect against hearing damage from direct exposure to loud noise:
- Limit the volume with the use of earplugs (or by turning down the volume on an mp3 player).
- Limit the time of exposure to the noise either by avoiding it or by taking rest breaks.
- Increase the distance from the sound source as far as possible (e.g. not standing directly in front of the speakers during a rock concert).
The following are some other tips to protect your hearing:
- Apply the 60/60 rule when listening to music on a mobile device—listen for no more than 60 minutes at 60 percent of the max volume.
- Consult with your employer about its hearing protection programs if you work in an at-risk profession.
- Use hearing protection at noisy venues and during loud activities. Low-cost foam earplugs are obtainable at your local pharmacy, and customized earplugs are available from your local hearing professional.
- Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones block outside sound so you can listen to the music at reduced volumes.
- Purchase musicians plugs, a special type of earplug that decreases volume without producing the dull sound of foam earplugs.
3. Know the signs and symptoms of hearing loss
Hearing loss results when the nerve cells of the inner ear are injured. Below are some of the signs of hearing loss to look for directly after exposure to loud sounds:
- Ringing in the ears, which is stands for tinnitus.
- The feeling of “fullness” in your ears.
- Difficulty comprehending speech, where everything sounds muffled.
Those are a few of the signs of hearing damage directly after exposure. Here are the signs of long-term hearing loss:
- Asking others to repeat themselves often, or frequently misinterpretation what people are saying.
- Having trouble following conversations and making fine distinctions between similar sounding words and phrases.
- Turning the TV or radio volume up to the point where others notice.
- Thinking that other people are always mumbling.
- Having difficulty hearing on the phone.
Generally, your friends or family members will be the first to observe your hearing loss. It’s easy to brush this off, but in our experience, if somebody is told they have hearing loss by a family member, chances are good that they do.
4. Get your hearing tested
Finally, it’s important to get a hearing test, for two reasons. One, if your hearing is normal, you can not only tell others that your hearing is fine, you’ll also establish a baseline to evaluate future hearing tests.
Second, if the hearing test does display hearing loss, you can work together with your hearing care professional to determine the optimal hearing plan, which usually includes the use of hearing aids. And with modern-day technology, you can restore your hearing and enhance almost every aspect of your life.