48 million people in the US have trouble hearing in at least one ear. Noise related hearing loss is irreversible. However, you can do some things to help avoid noise-induced hearing loss and protect your hearing from getting worse. With just a few small habit changes and increased awareness you can protect your hearing.
How Your Ears Work:
Sound is collected by the ear through sound waves. Sound waves travel down the ear canal to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates and sends those vibrations to 3 tiny bones in the middle ear. The middle ear sends the vibrations to the cochlea in the inner ear. The cochlea sends the waves on to basilar membrane. There are tiny hair cells sitting on the basilar membrane. These cells start an electrical signal to the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve carries this electrical signal to the brain which becomes the sounds we recognize.
A loud sound can damage or dislodge the tiny bones of the middle ear causing hearing loss. Loud noises can also damage these tiny hair cells. Once these hair cells are damaged there is no way to fix them.
Understanding Sound Volume:
The volume of noise that you listen to or the sounds you are around does affect your hearing.
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). The larger the decibel numbers the louder the sound. 85 decibels or higher can cause hearing loss or hearing problems. The louder the noise the less time you should expose yourself to that noise.
- Leaves Rustling – 20 dB
- Whispering – 30 dB
- Conversation – 60 dB
- Busy Traffic – 70 to 85 dB
- Hair Dryer – 90 dB
- Lawn Mower – 106dB
- Rock Concert – 110 dB
- Plane Take off – 120 dB
- Gunshot or Firework – 140 dB
Age – As we get older the tiny hair cells in the inner ear break down and don’t pick up sound vibrations as well. 39% of adults in their 60’s report hearing problems.
Exposure to Loud Sounds – Rock concerts or hunting for example.
Noisy Work Environments – Occupational hearing loss can effect: Construction Workers, Firefighters, and Musicians, those in the Military, Manufacturing Workers, Road Workers, Auto Racing, Airport Employees (especially those on the tarmac) and other noisy work environments.
Smoking – Smoking tobacco makes you more likely to lose your hearing.
Medications – Antibiotics and cancer fighting drugs often have the side-effect of hearing loss. If drugs are labeled Ototoxic Drugs that means these drugs are toxic to the ears and can cause hearing loss.
Warning Signs Your Hearing Is At Risk:
- A sound is too loud if it hurts your ears.
- You have to raise your voice to be heard.
- You are unable to hear someone 3 feet away from you.
- Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after leaving a noisy place.
- Tinnitus – buzzing or ringing in your ears.
Hearing Loss Prevention:
Avoid earbuds and head phones whenever possible.