Preventing Hearing Loss
Guarding Against Noise Induced Hearing Loss
One of the most common causes of hearing loss is loud noise. Loud noise can permanently damage the inner ear. Loud noise also contributes to tinnitus, which is a ringing, buzzing, or roaring sound in the ears.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is 100 percent preventable. You can protect your hearing by paying attention to noises at or above 85 decibels in loudness, which can damage your inner ear. These include lawnmowers, snowblowers, motorcycles,firecrackers, and loud music. Lower the volume on personal stereo systems and televisions. When you are involved in a loud activity, wear earplugs or other hearing protective devices. Be sure to protect children as well. Also, steer clear of loud noises that are too close or that last too long.
NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense “impulse” sound, such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time, such as noise generated in a woodworking shop.
Sound is measured in units called decibels. On the decibel scale, an increase of 10 means that a sound is 10 times more intense, or powerful. To your ears, it sounds twice as loud. The humming of a refrigerator is 45 decibels, normal conversation is approximately 60 decibels, and the noise from heavy city traffic can reach 85 decibels. Sources of noise that can cause NIHL include motorcycles, firecrackers, and small firearms, all emitting sounds from 120 to 150 decibels.
Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before NIHL can occur. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss.
Although being aware of decibel levels is an important factor in protecting one’s hearing, distance from the source of the sound and duration of exposure to the sound are equally important. A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are “too loud” and “too close” or that last “too long.”
Preventing Induced Hearing Loss - NIHL is 100 percent preventable. All individuals should understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health in everyday life. To protect your hearing:
- Know which noises can cause damage (those at or above 85 decibels).
- Wear earplugs or other hearing protective devices when involved in a loud activity (special earplugs and earmuffs are available from audiologists and hardware or sporting goods stores).
- Be alert to hazardous noise in the environment.
- Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
- Make family, friends, and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.
- Have your hearing checked if you suspect hearing loss.
Guarding Against Other Hearing Losses
There are additional ways to prevent hearing loss.
Preventing Earwax Blockage Hearing Loss - Consult your doctor if earwax blockage is a problem for you.
Preventing Ear Infection Hearing Loss - The ear infection otitis media is most common in children, but adults can get it, too. You can help prevent upper respiratory infections -- and a resulting ear infection -- by washing your hands frequently. Also, get a flu shot every year to help stave off flu-related ear infections. If you still get an ear infection, see a doctor immediately before it becomes more serious.
Preventing Medication Hearing Loss - Do you take medication? If so, ask your doctor if your medicine is ototoxic, or damaging to the ear. Ask if other drugs can be used instead. If not, ask if the dose can be safely reduced. Sometimes it cannot. However, your doctor will help you get the medicine you need while trying to reduce unwanted side effects.