Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Did you know that nearly 20% of Americans have hearing loss? Hearing loss can be caused by the natural aging process as well as by injury, illness, or infection. However, one of the leading causes of hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss, or hearing loss from being exposed to far too many loud noises.

What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

Each and every day, we’re exposed to excessive noise, from noisy workplaces to traffic noise and even household noises like appliances, the vacuum cleaner, or the TV. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is hearing loss caused by over exposure to all these loud noises in our environment. Hold on. Your appliances aren’t that loud; surely, they’re not causing hearing loss? It’s true that on their own these sounds aren’t loud enough to damage your hearing, but when you’re constantly exposed to so many loud sounds in your environment, your ears can’t handle the noise, and you’ll be damaging your hearing.

NIHL can be sudden or gradual. When you’re exposed to loud sounds all day every day, this chips away at your hearing over time, and you’ll be far more likely to develop hearing loss than people who are in quiet environments every day. Hearing loss can also happen in a just a few minutes. If a noise is very loud, like a gunshot right by your ear, it only takes a second for your hearing to be permanently damaged.

Decibel Levels and Hearing loss

So how loud is too loud? To answer this question, we need to talk about decibel levels. Decibels (dB) are a way to measure volume, and find out what sounds are damaging to our hearing health. Sounds under 85 dB are considered safe. Things like normal conversation, the hum of the refrigerator, listening to the TV at a quiet volume are all safe sounds. However, once you’re exposed to sounds over 85 dB, the delicate structures of your inner ear face permanent damage, and your hearing health will be affected.

What Sounds Cause Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

NIHL can be caused by all sorts of sounds. The louder the sound, the greater your chances of developing hearing loss, and the less exposure you’ll be able to handle before your hearing suffers. If you’re at the shooting range or using firearms without hearing protection, you’ll be damaging your hearing, since these sounds can be up to 150 dB! Other recreational activities like snowmobiling, boating, or setting off fireworks are all very dangerous to your hearing health. Some tools you use around the house, like the lawnmower or leaf blower, can be around 100-110 dB, so be sure you’re wearing hearing protection.

Have you ever left a concert or a bar feeling a ringing or buzzing in your ears, or feeling like all the sounds around you are muffled? This is a clear sign that the sounds have been too loud, and you need to wear hearing protection, and step outside every now and then to give your ears a break. Concerts are notoriously loud, and can damage your hearing within an hour, or even in just a few minutes.

Who’s at Risk from NIHL?

Unfortunately, we’re all at risk from noise induced hearing loss. Anyone working in a noisy sector like construction, manufacturing, or farming, risks hearing loss. Even neighborhood noise can put you at risk for NIHL. Seniors often suffer from noise induced hearing loss from years of working in noise without proper hearing protection. Even young people face NIHL! Around 17% of children and teens have NIHL due to unsafe listening practices. How often have you noticed your teen sitting on the couch with earbuds in, blasting music? While they don’t realize they’re doing anything other than enjoying their favorite band, in reality they are damaging their hearing, creating a lifetime of hearing problems. Make sure they turn the volume down, and tell them about the dangers of NIHL.

Treating Noise Induced Hearing Loss

If you have noise induced hearing loss, its time to do something about it. Hearing loss is about more than just straining to hear. You’ll struggle to follow conversations, have difficulty understanding your grandkids, and find yourself feeling isolated and alone, missing out on so many of the important sounds around you. Take the first step and visit us at Hearing Consultants for a hearing test. We’ll help you find the perfect pair of hearing aids that will get you back to hearing, whatever the cause of your hearing loss.

Tips for Enjoying the Holidays with Hearing Loss

Hearing Consultants - Tips for Enjoying the Holidays with Hearing Loss

Looking forward to the holiday season, we anticipate big gatherings, much to catch up with in lively conversations, and celebratory music. For your family members who experience hearing loss, the holidays prove to be a challenging hearing environment with all the sounds of festivities. There are ways you can support your family members during this time, to make sure that they feel connected and included. If you experience hearing loss yourself, there are also a few things you can do to make your holiday experience more enjoyable.

Understanding the Basics of Hearing Loss

For those of us who do not experience hearing loss, it’s important to understand a few things about the condition. With hearing loss, certain frequencies and sounds are difficult to understand, such as the voices of women and children. With hearing loss, speech recognition becomes difficult, especially in cross conversation against a lot of background noise. Another difficulty with hearing loss is competing noise. Hearing loss makes it difficult for people to discern and focus on specific sounds in challenging noise situations.

Good communication is key among family members during the holidays. Feel free to ask your family members who experience hearing loss how you can make their holiday seasons joyous and relaxing. If you experience a hearing loss, communicate your accommodation needs to your loved ones in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

Catching Up: Conversations & Speech Recognition

Holidays are a great time to catch up with our loved ones. When speaking to your loved one, make sure it is face-to-face and try to speak one person at a time – even though it might be difficult because everyone is excited to see one another! Speak at a pace that is even and normal – not unnaturally slow, of course – and speak clearly at a good volume, without running words together. People with hearing loss may hear muddled speech, so the clearer your diction, the better.

If you experience a hearing loss, position yourself in a way that makes it easier to have a conversation. Try to have a conversation off to the side in a small group – this is easier than being in big conversation. When seated at the dining table, try to get a seat with your back to a wall. If you sit at one of the ends, it may be easier to see everyone’s face, allowing you to read nonverbal cues.

Turn Down the Music

Who doesn’t love holiday music? Often times, we want music on to create a festive ambiance. Keep in mind that music blaring from speakers may hinder conversations your loved ones may have, and dial the volume down to a reasonable level. If the space is noisy, make sure you’ve got your family member’s attention before you speak; it could be as simple as a touch on the shoulder or elbow. With a lot of background noise, people who experience hearing loss may not be able to focus on all of the sounds in their environment, and may not hear you if you are behind them or off to the side.

If you experience hearing loss, ask your host to keep the volume down on the music. You could also suggest that they turn the speakers away from the guests, which still allows for those festive tunes but in a less direct and obtrusive way!

Streamlining Travel Plans

If your family member is hard of hearing and is planning to travel to see you, be prepared in advance and know their plans. Public transportation hubs and airports are particularly challenging noise environments for people who experience hearing loss, due to the large cavernous structures of transportation hubs as well as constant noise from vehicles, other travelers, and announcements on PA systems. Make sure you are in touch via text message, or that you have a clear plan for picking them up as they arrive, in case they cannot hear you on the phone.

If you experience a hearing loss, simple steps in preparation could make your travel plans so much easier. Make sure you have all of the supplies you need for your hearing devices, set your flight plans to text alert (just in case you cannot hear the schedule changes over the PA), and have everything printed up in hard copy.

Accommodating Family Activities

What’s better than gathering after a big dinner to play games, listen to music, or watch a movie as a family? If your family member treats their hearing loss with a hearing aid, ask them about the wireless connectivity capabilities of their devices. There are options for assistive listening devices (ALD) to amplify sound; if your family members are hard of hearing and visit you often, consider an ALD for the family room to assist with their listening experience.

If you have a hearing loss, your hearing aids may offer wireless connectivity options. Most hearing aids can be connected to home entertainment systems and electronic devices via Bluetooth, which delivers clear sound of media to the ears. If you are unsure, ask your hearing specialist at Hearing Consultants.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

In anticipation of the busy holiday season, schedule an appointment with us at Hearing Consultants. If you experience a hearing loss and use hearing aids, we’ll give your hearing aids a tune-up so you’re ready for the upcoming festivities. If you have been experiencing changes in your hearing, we’ll work with you to find a solution.

Adjusting to Your New Hearing Aids

Hearing Consultants - Adjusting to Your New Hearing Aids

If you’ve been living with untreated hearing loss, getting hearing aids can be a big step. Adjusting to your new devices can seem strange and uncomfortable at first. Part of the process of adapting to hearing aids is reintroducing your brain to hearing which can take a little time and practice. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started with wearing new hearing aids.

Ramp Up Your Hearing Aid Time

Adjusting to the feel of a hearing aid may take a little getting used to, but wearing them consistently is key to rehabilitating your hearing. If your hearing aid isn’t comfortable to you at first, begin by only wearing your devices for a few hours each day. After three days of minimal use, start keeping them in for an additional hour each day. Ramp up over the course of two weeks or so, from wearing them 2-3 hours a day to wearing them full-time, during all your waking hours. The gradual approach lets your ears ease into the way a hearing aid feels and how it rests on the ear.

Tune In On Small Noises

When you first get hearing aids you’re going to have to re-teach yourself how to hear sounds and place them in an environment. As you begin to adjust to your hearing aids give yourself some hearing practice time in a quiet space. Concentrate on hearing small and soft sounds within the space and try to figure out the source of the sound. Listening to small sounds reacquaints you with a nuanced sound range that will help you sort out the complexities of sound in busier environments. Being able to place sounds is an essential part of following conversation and prioritizing sounds in an environment.

How To Recognize Speech

An early experiment with vocal recognition software famously interpreted the phrase “How to recognize speech” as “How to wreck a nice beach”. The software really can’t be blamed – interpreting speech is indeed complicated and subtle. Rather than running the risk of wrecking a nice beach yourself, you may want to develop a practice routine with your new hearing aids to help you hear speech and conversation better.

A great way to practice this is by linking the words you hear with words you read. If you enjoy watching television shows, start turning on closed captioning so you can read the dialogue as you hear it. Another way to practice this is to listen to an audiobook as you simultaneously read it. Some radio programs make transcripts available online where you can simultaneously read and listen to an interview or report. You can also simply curl up in your favorite reading spot and read out loud to yourself.  Whatever technique you use, tethering sounds to their written meaning helps smooth the connections required for comprehending speech. 

Get To Know Your Device

Be sure you know how to keep your hearing aids clean and powered up. Have your hearing specialist walk you through how to wear and maintain your hearing aids. If your device has a volume control or if it integrates with your smart phone, take time to learn how it works and when to use special features.  Don’t mess around with volume settings much as you are adjusting to a new device. Wait until you are comfortable hearing with hearing aids to do any major volume changes.

In the adjustment period you should also be keeping track of noises that may sound annoying or off. If you start a list of these sounds when you first begin wearing new hearing aids, go over the list again once you feel comfortable with your devices. Many people often find the noises that were startling or confusing at the start have become normalized and unobtrusive as your hearing adapts. If any noises continue to be problematic, speak to your hearing specialist about potential adjustments.

Hearing Consultants Is Here For You

If you are having questions about your hearing aids, or if you’ve noticed any changes to your hearing, let Hearing Consultants help. We specialize in personalized hearing solutions alongside comprehensive testing and follow-up. Our expert hearing staff is here for your hearing heath, whenever you need assistance.