How often do you think about your “noise diet”? Our sense of hearing is the only one that never fully shuts off throughout the day – this is why alarm clocks are so effective when we’re in a deep sleep. From morning to night, even when we’re asleep, our sense of hearing is always working. Because we all lead vastly diverse lives – from our place of employment to our place of residence to the activities in which we partake when we’re not working – the amount of noise we’re exposed to differs from person to person.
There’s no denying that modern life has gotten louder and louder. Due to advances in technology, providing us with smartphones and portable music players, we’re exposed to higher quality sound for longer (thanks to longer battery life). In fact, hearing researchers tell us that “the daily exposure to noise is directly related to the risk of hearing damage.”
Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is a common form of the condition that could affect anyone, at any time. Unlike other forms of hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. Noise-induced hearing loss is considered sensorineural because it affects the way our brains receive and recognize sound.
All sounds are measured by decibels. A normal conversation, face to face, usually clocks in at around 60 decibels. The softest sound a person can hear is 0 decibels, a whisper is 30 decibels, while city traffic is an average of 90 decibels. At 180 decibels – a rocket taking off – or 140 decibels – a jet engine at take-off – one could experience permanent hearing loss after one-time exposure.
According to hearing specialists, a daily exposure of sounds at 85 decibels is appropriate for no more than eight hours. This is a standard set by the Center for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. If you work in a particularly loud profession, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a weighted amount of time depending on the decibel level. For example, 85 decibels at 8 hours is the recommended maximum exposure level. With just a 3-decibel increase, the amount of exposure time is halved – in other words, sounds at 88 decibels become unsafe after 4 hours; sounds at 91 decibels become unsafe after 2 hours, and so on.
While this relates strictly to occupational hearing hazards, we are exposed to many loud sounds throughout our day, from fire engine sirens to live rock shows. Paying attention to these sounds in your life could help prevent hearing loss.
Ways to Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
- Keep the Volume Down –Portable audio devices are ubiquitous now. Using noise-canceling headphones is the healthiest option for your hearing. Earbuds are convenient, but they do not cancel out external noise. As a result, people tend to turn up the volume when they use earbuds, to drown out the external noise. This creates a hazardous volume of sound near the eardrum, which may cause permanent damage to hearing.
- Limit Time in Noise – Most hearing specialists agree that when listening to personal audio devices, following the 60-60 rule helps to prevent hearing loss. That is, listening for 60 minutes at no more than 60% of the volume. When in a noisy venue for a live performance or a sporting event, use earbuds. Also, take a break from the noise by stepping outside or moving away from loud sounds.
- Monitor Safe Listening Levels – There are different apps available to control safe listening levels, which allow you to measure decibels in your environment. If you are a parent, you may want to download these apps to monitor safe listening to levels on your child’s electronic devices. It will prevent them from turning the volume up without a password.
- Educate Young People about Safe Listening – Hearing loss, once it occurs, is permanent and irreversible. Most young people do not consider their hearing health as they are enjoying their music and media. Sit down with your child or teen and discuss the long-term effects of regular exposure to loud noise. Share with them the options of ear protection and tips to minimize their exposure to loud noise on a daily basis.
Visit Us at Neighborhood Hearing Center for a Check Up
As with people who wear contact lenses and require annual eye exams, schedule in an annual hearing exam for the entire family. Here at Neighborhood Hearing Center, we provide comprehensive hearing exams that will identify your current hearing ability. If a hearing loss is present, then we will work with you to find the proper treatment.