October is Protect Your Hearing Month

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss Prevention by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
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This month, we want your hearing health to dodge all the tricks and reap all the treats because October is Protect Your Hearing Month. Your hearing is a fragile sensory tool, and when you know how to care for it, it can last you your whole life. However, although our hearing is so dynamic, it is also quite delicate. Noise exposure is the leading cause of hearing loss which is also almost entirely preventable. By knowing how to recognize dangerous noise and reduce your exposure to it, you are taking the simplest and most effective route to preserve your hearing health. 

Noise and Hearing

We measure noise level in a unit called “decibels”, abbreviated “dB”. The decibel scale goes from the quietest sound perceivable by the human ear at 0 dB to beyond noise levels that instantaneously cause hearing damage, 120 dB and greater. Human hearing is flexible up to around 75 dB, the noise level of a busy office. Our hearing can listen to sound at this volume without rest and still remain undamaged. 

At volume levels greater than 75 dB, the potential to incur permanent hearing damage is present. The louder the sound level, the more swiftly permanent hearing damage can occur. At 85 dB, the volume of an active factory floor, hearing injury is caused by around 8 hours of exposure, which makes 85 dB an important sound threshold for those working in noisy settings. Consistently noisy workplaces are required by OSHA regulation to supply appropriate sound protection to their employees working in dangerously loud settings.

The volume of a motorcycle running is around 95 dB, a volume that is only safe for about 1 hour of sustained listening. Live concerts often register at 105 dB which isn’t even safe for ten minutes. At very loud volumes, with no hearing protection, your hearing needs frequent breaks from noise in order to rest, or else it will be harmed. All sounds over 120 dB, such as fireworks, require hearing protection to avoid hearing damage. 

If you are concerned about the volume of your surroundings the easiest way to monitor sound levels is with a decibel meter app designed for your smartphone. A variety of options now exist that effectively transform different platforms and operating systems into a handy, easy-to-use noise monitoring tool. 

Are you finding yourself frequently around loud noise? It is time to protect your hearing. Carry protective equipment with you – earplugs or earmuffs are both good options for dampening excess noise to safe levels. Custom earplugs are a great option for those looking to preserve their hearing. Reusable and molded to your ear canal, custom earplugs offer a comfortable, portable, and easy-to-use safety solution.

New Technology, New Threat

Monitoring your sound surroundings is important but it is just as critical to take stock of the way you listen to sound privately. Headphones and earbuds are proving to be a significant factor in rising hearing loss, especially among young people. Bad listening habits in headphones can often go undetected because they cannot hear the true volume.  

Many people crank up the volume on personal devices to mimic the volume of live music, or “intensify” the sound experience without realizing the very real harm it can cause. Decibel levels emitting from headphones are much harder to accurately measure than simple environmental readings. Additionally, sound from headphones is delivered directly into the ear canal, giving it a straight shot to the most fragile components of the auditory system. 

To reduce your risk of permanent hearing damage from personal devices, start by turning down the volume. When setting your listening volume on a device, start low and only elevate your volume level to the minimal discernable volume. Keep your volume range on all devices out of the loudest third of the volume control’s range. 

Care For Your Hearing

You can care for your hearing and reduce your noise exposure, but sometimes hearing issues may still arise. Regular hearing exams are part of your hearing health. Hearing tests can catch issues early and connect you with treatment for hearing problems before they amplify into bigger issues. Remember, your hearing is a sense you’ll want to preserve your whole life.