Hearing is our invaluable sense that connects us to our friends, family and our world. Most of you reading this newsletter already understand the barrier that hearing loss pres- ents. We are fortunate for the excellent technology that hearing aids and cochlear implants provide, but we know that these items cannot restore 100% of what we’ve lost. One of the most prevalent causes of hearing loss in our society is noise exposure.
- 10 million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise;
- 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.
- The effects of noise on hear- ing are often underestimated because the damage takes place so gradually.
“Noise” sounds like something unpleasant, but often it is something that we are choosing to be around. Common hobbies that are noisy include riding motorcycles and snow-mobiles, using power tools, shooting guns, setting off firecrackers, listening to loud music and attending sporting events. Occupations that pose a noise hazard include police officer, fire fighter, factory worker, military personnel, construction worker, musician and farmer.
Sometimes a single exposure to very loud noise can damage your hearing. However, it is more common for noise to damage hearing over a period of time. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has regulations for noise exposure in the work place (unfortunately con- struction and farming are consid- ered ‘seasonal’ jobs and are not regulated for noise exposure). An employee can only be exposed to noise of 90dB for a maximum of 8 hours a day. As the decibel level climbs, the maximum hours of exposure diminishes.
The best way to protect yourself from hearing loss is to avoid loud noise altogether. If that isn’t pos- sible, then use hearing protection and limit the amount of time you are exposed to loud sounds.
There are two categories of hearing protection, ear muffs and ear plugs. For many, the ear plugs sold in drug stores are perfectly adequate. Roll them between your finger tips as small as they go and insert them into your ear canal. Hold the plug in place with your finger until it expands.
For some, these plugs don’t fit well and custom ear plugs are needed. Call Valley Audiology for informa- tion and pricing for custom earplugs. Ear muffs are sold at hardware stores and sporting goods stores.
A quick test you can do for loudness: If you can’t hear someone speaking from three feet away, the sound is loud enough to damage your hearing.
Sample Decibel Levels:
- 30dB – Whisper
- 90dB – Lawnmower
- 95dB – Motorcycle
- 100dB – Chainsaw
- 105dB – Helicopter
- 115dB – Baby’s cry, stadium football game
- 120dB – Rock Concert
- 140dB – Gun shot, Jet engine