Did you know that noise is a common cause of hearing loss? Noise induced hearing loss can be caused by one time or regular exposure to loud noise. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, over 30 million people are regularly exposed to excessive noise. It is important to take inventory of the noise in your everyday environment and to practice ways to protect your hearing health. Integrating effective safety measures can help prevent noise induced hearing loss.
Impact of Noise on Hearing Health
Loud noise can cause noise induced hearing loss, a type of permanent hearing loss that reduces capacity to hear. One time or consistent absorption can cause noise induced hearing loss by damaging sensory cells that are in the inner ear. There are thousands of sensory cells in the cochlea and these cells play a critical role in how sound is processed. They receive incoming soundwaves and convert them into electrical signals. These signals then get sent to the brain which continues processing them. This includes assigning meaning to them which allows us to understand what we hear.
Loud noise can desensitize and weaken these cells, preventing them from processing soundwaves effectively. This type of damage reduces their capacity to perform their essential function, resulting in the brain receiving less auditory information which causes hearing loss. Unlike other types of cells we have, sensory cells in the inner ear do not regenerate. There are also no ways that they can be fixed or replenished, making any damage they experience permanent. This results in chronic, noise induced hearing loss.
Common Sources of Loud Noise Exposure
Though you may be thinking that noise has to be extremely loud to damage hearing, you may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t. Sound is measured in decibels (dB), and noise above 85dB is considered hazardous for hearing health. For perspective, this is equivalent to busy city traffic, a busy restaurant during peak hours, and a hair dryer. There are various types of activities we engage in daily that produce noise near or above 85dB. Examples include:
- Work environments: it is estimated that over 22 million people work in environments that expose them to excessive noise levels. There are numerous examples of noisy work settings including: construction sites, transportation hubs, music and entertainment venues etc.
- Household appliances: a number of household appliances reach or surpass 85dB. This includes power tools, blenders, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, hair dryers etc.
- Social activities: social life is another area where people can experience high volumes of noise. This includes attending concerts, going to active and noisy restaurants, paintballing, hunting etc.
- Using headphones/earbuds: it is common to listen to audio using headphones or earbuds. From music, to podcasts, and talking on the phone; headphones can be used daily to engage in these activities. Depending on the device they are connected to, noise can easily exceed 85dB. For example, earbuds that are connected to an iPhone can reach 100dB on the highest volume setting.
These everyday activities highlight that it is easier to be exposed to dangerous noise levels than you may think. This also highlights the importance of protecting your hearing health from this type of exposure.
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
Noise induced hearing loss is preventable. By practicing safety measures, you can significantly protect your hearing health. A few tips that you can implement to mitigate the potential harm of loud noise include:
- Wear hearing protection: this includes earplugs, headphones, and earmuffs which provide a physical barrier for the ears. This reduces the amount of loud noise you absorb, protecting your hearing in everyday settings.
- Measure and monitor noise levels: there are various apps that you can download to measure the noise levels in your environment. This allows you to adjust your exposure time as well as lower volume settings on devices to ensure that you are protecting your hearing.
- Reduce exposure: there are a number of ways you can reduce your exposure to loud noise. This includes: taking listening breaks throughout the day, avoiding noisy settings, driving with the window rolled up, choosing quieter settings to spend time with loved ones in etc.
- Test hearing regularly: another useful strategy is having your hearing tested consistently. This allows you to track your hearing health and to identify (and treat) any changes you may experience early on.
Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect your hearing from loud noise. There are various technologies and resources available to help you prioritize your hearing health!
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