What Can You Do to Prevent Hearing Loss?
Many people think that hearing loss is inevitable and is just something that happens with old age. This isn't necessarily true, and while hearing loss can't always be prevented, there is one type of hearing loss is 100% preventable, and that is due to noise exposure.
Loud noises can be dangerous and can permanently damage your hearing, no matter how old you are. So, one of the first and most important things you can do is to avoid loud noises in the first place.
A good guideline to go by is that if you must raise your voice to talk to other people, then the noise is probably loud enough to damage your hearing. If you can't hear what people are saying nearby, the noise hurts your ears or if you have been somewhere and you have ringing in your ears or muffled hearing afterward – then this would indicate that this noise level is loud enough to be damaging.
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB), and the louder the noise, the higher the number in decibels. Any sound that is over 85dB can be harmful, especially if you're exposed to it for a long time. So, to give you an example, whispering is measured at about 30dB, normal conversation is about 60dB, heavy traffic is 70 to 85dB, a motorbike is 90dB, listening to music on full volume through headphones is 100 to 110dB and a plane taking off is 120dB. If this is something you're concerned about or even just interested in, then you can get smartphone apps that measure noise levels but make sure they're set up properly to get a more accurate reading. Loud noise is classed as anything at or above 85 decibels, and this can cause damage to the cells in the inner ear that convert sound into signals to the brain. It is important to take care to minimize your exposure to loud noises that are persistent, so how can you do this?
Be careful when listening to music
To help avoid damaging your hearing, then you do need to take care when listening to loud music through earphones and headphones. Try using noise-canceling headphones rather than just turning up the volume to block out outside noise. Also, make sure you only have the volume up so that you can hear the music comfortably and no more than that. About 60% of the maximum volume is the recommended limit to listen to music at, and some devices have settings that you can use to limit the volume automatically, so this is a really good idea to look at. Even just turning down the volume, a little can make a big difference to your risk of hearing damage. It's also important not to use earphones or headphones for more than an hour at a time, take a break for at least five minutes every hour.
Protect your hearing during loud events
If you're going to an event or venue where it's going to be loud, then it's important to protect your hearing. So, if you're going to a nightclub, gig or sports event, then make sure that you don't stand by loudspeakers and make an effort to take a break from the noise every 15 minutes. After the event then you need to give your hearing some time to recover too. Also, you could consider wearing earplugs if you know it's going to be a loud event as you can buy re-usable musicians' earplugs that reduce the volume of the music but don't lessen the quality of the music.
Take precautions at work
If you do a job, which means that you are exposed to loud noises through then, your employer should provide you with the right protection. If they don't, then you do need to speak to your manager or HR department. It might mean that you are moved to a quieter workspace, work on quieter equipment or reduce the amount of time you spend working with loud noises, or they should provide you with hearing protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs.
Get your hearing tested
Get your hearing tested as soon as you notice any signs of hearing loss or are worried about being exposed to loud noises because the earlier hearing loss is picked up; the earlier something can be done about it. It is important to have regular hearing checks too. You should also see your doctor if you have any ear pain or ringing in your ears, or if you experience any sudden change in your hearing.
To learn more about East Bay Audiologists, give us a call at (925) 575-9097.