Tips for Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
By Matthew Rumsey, AuD, CCC-A
Twenty eight million Americans suffer from hearing loss, including 10 million who suffer from preventable, irreversible noise-induced hearing loss. Another 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day. One of the most common ways children and teenagers can acquire noise-induced hearing loss is listening to loud music. Avera Medical Group – Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Yankton has designated May as Better Hearing and Speech Month, promoting hearing conservation to reduce noise-induced hearing impairment.
Although I am proud to help those who have experienced a hearing loss, it is much more gratifying to protect a patient’s hearing. There is no replacement for our hearing sense. Every day I focus on preserving hearing by educating patients about dangerous sounds, selecting hearing protectors that best fit the individual and proper use of hearing protectors.
Activities that put your hearing at risk include: playing with noisy toys, band instruments and video games; listening to personal music players and stereos at high volumes; attending concerts and movies; operating lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, firearms, fireworks and riding off-road vehicles. As a rule, noise may damage your hearing if you are at arm’s length from it, or if you have to shout to make yourself heard.
Two factors that determine risk levels are the overall sound pressure level and duration of exposure. OSHA considers 85 decibels (common lawn mower engine) safe for 8 hours. If you are exposed to 90 decibels, your hearing could potentially become damaged in 4 hours. At 100 decibels, you are safe for only about an hour. When the noise reaches 110 decibels, damage can occur after 15 minutes of exposure. To put it in perspective, sports arenas have been measured at levels exceeding 130 decibels and some firearms exceed 160 decibels.
At Avera Medical Group – ENT Yankton, we recommend patients practice the following hearing conservation strategies to protect themselves and their families from noise-induced hearing loss:
- Turn it to the left – In other words, turn the volume down. If others can hear music from headphones or you have to shout to be heard it is too loud.
- Be safe not sorry - Utilize hearing protectors every time you are involved in loud activities.
- Walk away – Limit your time in noisy environments when hearing protection is not available.
Humans are highly social and rely on communication to keep us connected to friends and family. Hearing loss interrupts communication and interferes with those relationships, which can result in depression, withdrawal, reduced self-esteem and self-worth. By practicing hearing conservation strategies diligently, you can prevent these negative outcomes of noise-induced hearing impairment. So, do yourself a favor. Turn it to the left! Be safe not sorry! Walk away from noise!