A Complete Guide to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss refers to the condition where your ears' delicate hair is damaged due to noise. Imagine not being able to listen to your favorite sounds ever again – well, that's the risk that people take when they don't protect their ears from exposure to loud noise. Did you know that the World Health Organization estimates that one billion young adults and teenagers are at higher risk of hearing loss than any other group? This is down to the unsafe use of headphones, audio devices and exposure to highly dangerous sound levels. Your actions can prevent noise-induced hearing loss, but if you're too late, it's an audiologist who can help you.
What is noise-induced hearing loss?
Every single one of us has hair cells growing inside the ear canal. When there is excessive exposure to loud noise, those hairs become damaged, and your hearing is affected. The biggest issue is that when those delicate hairs are damaged, there is no going back: they do not grow again, and they cannot be repaired. Noise-induced hearing loss affects different people in different ways, and it can be gradual or it can be sudden. A huge, loud noise can affect your hearing permanently, and the volume is gradually turned up on headphones over time will also cause the same hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect one or both ears, and losing your hearing isn't the only side effect. Noise-induced tinnitus in one or both ears can also result from exposure to too much loud noise. Noise damage is cumulative, whether to one or both ears. This means that even small amounts of damage over time build up to cause noticeable hearing disruption.
How can I know what noises are safe?
We measure the level of noise in decibels. Any sounds that hit less than between 75 and 80 decibels are safe, and anything louder than this is unsafe. You can listen to sounds at 75 decibels every single day and never have hearing damage. Still, if you listen to prolonged sound consistently over 80 decibels, you could be causing harm. For example, a lawnmower runs at 85 decibels most of the time, and this loud noise over time is going to cause you hearing damage. Did you know that your iPod can play up to 136 decibels? Having the volume on full blast all the time will damage your hearing over time, and you will notice when it's too late.
Signs and symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss
There are plenty of ways to tell whether your hearing has become affected by the noise around you, and some of the most obvious signs include:
- Ringing in your ears
- Distorted and muffled sounds at any level
- An ability to hear others but not understand them clearly
- Anyone or anything three feet away talking to you or making sound is faded and muted
- The volume needs to be up as high as possible for you to hear the TV or music.
Any of these signs should be checked out by a professional audiologist, as they can test your hearing and let you know whether you are dealing with noise-induced hearing loss.
How can I prevent noise-induced hearing loss?
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is entirely preventable. The bad news is that you're already too far with it by the time you're looking it up, and you possibly are dealing with hearing loss already. If you want to prevent any further hearing loss, then you need the following tips:
- Where you can, wear earplugs. Mowing the lawn, heading to a festival or concert, going to a sporting event – wear earplugs. You can get ones that reduce the sound by 30 decibels and keep everything sounding normal. Your audiologist can advise you here!
- Turn the volume down to 60%. Whatever medium you are listening to, turn it down to accommodate your hearing needs.
- Swap the earbuds for headphones. Earbuds may feel comfortable, but they're very close to the eardrum and pumping music through it. Go for the headphones, and you'll be kinder to your ears.
- Have a little silence! Whether you have a job that puts you around noisy machinery or not, switch off the television and enjoy the silence for a few hours at a time.
If you are worried about your hearing and are concerned about noise-induced hearing loss, then give Portland Audiology Clinic, LLC, a call us today at (503) 227-3668 for an appointment with an audiologist. You won't regret checking on your hearing.