Hearing is one of the most important senses we have. It allows us to communicate, enjoy music, and be aware of our surroundings. However, many people take their hearing for granted and expose themselves to loud noises that can damage their ears over time. In this blog post, we will explain why hearing protection is important and how to protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a permanent and irreversible condition that occurs when the tiny hair cells in the inner ear are damaged by loud sounds. These hair cells are responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. When they are damaged, they cannot regenerate and the ability to hear certain frequencies is reduced or lost.
The level of sound is measured in decibels (dB). The higher the dB level, the louder the sound. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to sounds above 85 dB can cause hearing damage over time. For reference, normal conversation is about 60 dB, a vacuum cleaner is about 80 dB, a rock concert is about 110 dB, and a jet engine is about 140 dB.
The duration of exposure also matters. The longer you are exposed to loud sounds, the more likely you are to damage your ears. The WHO recommends limiting exposure to sounds above 85 dB to no more than eight hours per day. For every 3 dB increase in sound level, the safe exposure time is halved. For example, exposure to 88 dB should be limited to four hours per day, and exposure to 91 dB should be limited to two hours per day.
There are several signs and symptoms of NIHL that you should be aware of. These include:
- Difficulty hearing people in noisy environments or on the phone
- Ringing, buzzing, or hissing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Muffled or distorted sounds
- Difficulty understanding speech or following conversations
- Needing to turn up the volume of TV or radio
- Feeling tired or stressed after being exposed to noise
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, you should consult a doctor or an audiologist for a hearing test. Early detection and treatment can help prevent further hearing loss and improve your quality of life.
The best way to prevent NIHL is to avoid or reduce exposure to loud noises. Here are some tips on how to protect your ears from noise:
- Wear earplugs or earmuffs when you are exposed to loud sounds, such as at concerts, sporting events, construction sites, or fireworks shows. Make sure they fit well and block out enough noise.
- Turn down the volume of your personal devices, such as headphones, earbuds, speakers, or phones. A good rule of thumb is to keep the volume at no more than 60% of the maximum and limit listening time to no more than an hour per day.
- Move away from the source of noise or take breaks from noisy environments. For example, if you are at a concert, move away from the speakers or go outside for a while.
- Protect your children’s ears from noise as well. Children are more vulnerable to NIHL because their ears are still developing and they may not realize when the noise is too loud. Teach them about the dangers of noise and provide them with ear protection when needed.
- Check your hearing regularly and seek professional help if you notice any changes. Hearing loss can affect your physical, mental, and social well-being, so don’t ignore it.
Hearing protection is not only important for your ears but also for your overall health and happiness. Give us a call or click here to schedule a hearing test and speak to an expert about your options.