Hearing Protection & Safe Music Enjoyment
The effects of noise on hearing are often underestimated because the damage can take place gradually, over a long period of time. Noise, however, is one of the most common causes of hearing loss as well as one of the most preventable occupational injuries. A single shot from a shotgun at close range can damage your hearing in an instant. Repeated exposure to loud machines or concerts may, over a longer period of time, cause permanent damage to your hearing.
Excessive noise breaks delicate hair cells in the inner ear. This damage results in hearing loss and often tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. If you have to raise your voice significantly over a noise to be heard by someone an arm’s length away, the noise is too loud.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Hearing
- If you believe your occupation puts you at risk, check with your employer to make sure you have adequately protected your hearing according to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. According to OSHA’s guidelines as of 2012, the permissible noise exposure limit for a workplace is 90 dBA over an 8-hour day. If you feel your hearing is not adequately protected but it does not meet the thresholds, seek hearing protection on your own.
- Limit exposure to loud, uncomfortable sounds.
- Wear hearing protection such as earplugs.
- At home, turn down the volume on the television, radio, and mobile listening devices to the lowest level at which you can hear clearly.
- Reduce background noise—if you have several fans on you may need to turn the volume on your TV up to a dangerous level in order to hear the TV clearly.
How Loud is Too Loud?
- The risk of noise-induced hearing loss depends on the intensity and duration of sounds you are exposed to. Sound that reach levels over 125 decibels (dB) even for a few milliseconds can cause permanent hearing loss. More commonly, however, hearing loss is caused by repeated exposure to noises above 80 dB over long periods. As the volume increases, the “safe” length of exposure decreases. Someone exposed to an 85 dB backhoe for 6 hours may be equally at risk of hearing loss as someone using a 115 dB table saw for only a few minutes.
- A common warning sign that your sound exposure is too loud is a notable difference in hearing immediately after leaving a noisy environment. Some examples of this include leaving a concert or finishing mowing your lawn and having pain in your ears, a ringing or buzzing sound, or being able to hear people talking but having difficulty understanding them.
Wear devices, such as earplugs, to protect your hearing when involved in loud activities either recreationally or at work. Wearing properly inserted earplugs for the entire duration of noise exposure is the best way to receive full protection. There is no single device that will fit everyone and be universally comfortable – talk to your hearing care professional to find out which option is right for you.
Protect your hearing before you experience hearing loss. Contact Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center today to schedule a conversation about which hearing protection option is best for you.