Do you enjoy listening to the sounds of leaves crunching under your feet at Heather Farm Park, the crackle of a bonfire or the tweeting of birds? If you have hearing loss, you may not even realize these beautiful sounds are missing. Fortunately, October is Audiology Awareness Month, which means there’s no better time to do something about your hearing loss.
How We Hear
Soundwaves from your environment are captured by the outer ear and travel down the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum. When the soundwave hits the eardrum, a vibration is created, which passes through three tiny bones within the middle ear called the malleus, incus and stapes. This vibration reaches the fluid-filled cochlea in the inner ear, which causes the fluid to move. The movement activates the tiny hair cells that line the cochlea called stereocilia, creating an electrical impulse. This electrical impulse travels via the auditory nerve to the brain where it is interpreted as sound.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Genetics, age and noise exposure are among the most common causes of hearing loss. While there’s not much that can be done about your family history or the march of time, you can do something to prevent hearing loss caused by noise exposure.
Any sound over 85 dB can cause damage to the stereocilia within the inner ear with enough exposure. For reference, below is a list of common sounds and their decibel outputs:
- Normal breathing: 10 dB.
- Rustling leaves: 20 dB.
- Whispering: 30 dB.
- Refrigerator humming: 40 dB.
- Normal conversation: 50 dB.
- Laughter: 60 dB.
- Vacuum cleaner: 70 dB.
- City traffic: 80 dB.
- Lawnmower: 90 dB.
- Garbage truck: 100 dB.
- Jackhammer: 110 dB.
- Thunder: 120 dB.
- Shotgun firing: 130 dB.
- Fireworks: 140 dB.
To protect your hearing, it’s important to wear earplugs or earmuffs whenever you’re exposed to noisy sounds.
Hearing Loss Statistics
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) compiled this list of statistics on the prevalence of hearing loss:
- Approximately two to three out of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. have hearing loss in one or both ears
- Around 15% of people over age 18 in the U.S. self-report some trouble hearing.
- One in eight people in the U.S. over the age of 12 has a diagnosed hearing loss.
- Approximately 2% of adults ages 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. This number jumps to 8.5% for adults ages 55-64, 25% for those ages 65-74 and 50% for those over 75.
- Fewer than one in three adults over 70 who could benefit from hearing aids actually wears them.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, call Valley Audiology today.