Work & Leisure Activities That Could Contribute to Hearing Loss

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

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
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If you have ever been to a loud event and then walked outside into the relatively quiet outdoors, you are already attuned to the risks of hearing loss associated with some leisure activities. That sound of ringing or muffled sound after walking out of a loud event points you in the direction of the damage that your hearing could sustain. 

These events are not only loud concerts, dance clubs, and sporting events in arenas; even a restaurant or bar can give you this feeling of sonic fatigue when you exit. Now, consider if you were employed at this venue, arena, restaurant, or bar. Those who experience loud noise at work every day are all too aware of the toll it can take on their hearing. 

For many, the sound of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is temporary, and you that muted or muffled sound might only last for a brief time after leaving a shift at work. However, the damage done to hearing can be lasting. When hearing loss of this kind occurs, it is due to actual damage to the tiny hairlike cells of the inner ear called stereocilia. Once these tiny hairs are damaged, current treatment and technology has not found a way to repair them. 

With these lasting effects of sound exposure, it is more important than ever to know the risks in your place of work or leisure. Let’s take a look at some of the less likely places where hearing damage can take place. 

Workplaces that Might Surprise You

Although factories, industrial sites, and places using heavy machinery are all risky workplaces for hearing loss, the noise can be so loud that you are fully aware of the risks they pose. Mining, oil, and gas extraction are three industrial jobs that have reported very high rates of hearing loss among their employees. 

Some other workplaces are more of a snake in the grass when it comes to hearing loss. As we mentioned, restaurants and bars can have a very loud overall decibel level, even when that sound comes primarily from patrons’ voices. Particularly if there is background music playing, that level can become damaging, so employees should consider wearing hearing protection while at work. 

Other occupations might come as a surprise, as well. Preschool teachers have reported higher rates of hearing loss than other jobs, including other teaching positions. Some have even suggested that stylists using hair dryers for much of the day can incur hearing loss from close proximity to these loud units, as well. 

Leisure Activities that Might Surprise You

When it comes to leisure activities, anything related to loud music will come to mind as a potential threat. Yet, what you consider “loud music” might not include enough to avoid potential threats to your hearing health. Of course, rock, pop, and rap concerts can be very loud, as can dance clubs, but did you know that acoustic instruments, such as violin, clarinet, and flute, can also cause hearing damage. 

Although these instruments seem to be quiet compared with a concert setting, performers are at the greatest risk. These instruments are played very close to the ear, where their volume can reach risky sonic territory. In combination, the school band can cause hearing damage not only for the players but for the conductor, as well. 

Other surprising activities with a risk of hearing loss include surfing. As they may already be aware, auditory exostosis, otherwise known as “surfer’s ear” is a condition afflicting many surfers, and the rates of hearing loss are significantly greater for those avidly involved in the leisure activity. Exostosis is the condition wherein extra bone grows to protect the eardrum from cold wind and water, but this bodily response can lead to ongoing hearing loss, as well. 

In each of these work and leisure settings, earplugs are a good option for protection. Whether you get some inexpensive, disposable foam earplugs, more advanced custom-molded earplugs, or noise-cancelling earmuffs, protection is the only safe bet to avoid hearing loss. Although you do not need to avoid these activities altogether, wearing protection is essential to your future hearing health, and none of these encounters with loud sound should be taken lightly. 

If you are looking for custom hearing protection, contact us today!