How Hearing Loss May Affect Your Job

How Hearing Loss May Affect Your Job

Have you been having trouble hearing at work? Do you find you have to ask people to repeat themselves or even mishear and respond inappropriately sometimes? This can happen to anyone, but it may also signify a hearing loss. It’s important to understand that you are not alone. In the United States, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic physical condition. About 12% of the U.S. working population has hearing difficulty. About 24% of the hearing difficulty among U.S. workers is caused by hazardous noise exposure in the workplace. 

While there are protections in place in most work environments, millions of workers are still exposed to dangerously high levels of sound putting their hearing at risk for developing permanent hearing loss. This is serious because more than just the ears, hearing loss can potentially affect relationships at work, job performance and earning power.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

One of the most common forms of hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud sound. Sound is measured in decibels and a decibel level over 85bB can slowly cause damage to your hearing. As the level rises it can damage or even destroy tiny hair-like cells of your inner ear called stereocilia. Stereocilia collect sound from your ears and send it to your brain in the form of electrical impulses which it is then comprehended into speech and sounds are identified. It’s important to understand that it is not just the level of the decibel which puts stereocilia at risk but the length of exposure. For instance, during an average work shift of eight hours 85 decibels can cause some damage, especially if the exposure occurs five times a week for a decade or more. However, at 88dB, the same amount of damage can occur after just four hours.  

Protecting Your Hearing

This is why hearing protection is so important. Hearing protection has the potential to lower the decibel level by 15 to 33 decibels. However, for those who work around unexpected noise such as air traffic control, law enforcement or the military, it’s common to struggle with severe hearing damage as it’s hard to predict when an extreme exposure will occur.

Hearing Loss and Job Performance

While hearing loss is an ear issue it affects your ability to stay alert and communicate with the people around you. Co-workers and employees who are not aware of your condition may assume that you are distracted or uninterested by what they are saying, when it is actually a hearing issue. You may mishear directions or miss them all together, leading the others in your workplace to rely on you less. This quickly turns into a safety issue as delayed reaction times to warning signs can put you and co-workers at risk. 

Hearing Loss and Unemployment

If you are on the job market and have been having trouble finding work, it could be connected to your hearing. If you have a hearing loss, the chances of getting hired are lessened. Even though The American Disability Act protects people hearing loss from discrimination in the workplace, you must know and be open about the disability to receive the protection. Most people with hearing loss are not even aware they have an issue. A 2016 study called, The Socioeconomic Impact of Hearing Loss in US Adults, found that individuals with hearing loss had nearly two times higher odds of unemployment or underemployment.

Hearing Loss and Salary

Not only is it more difficult to find a job when living with untreated hearing loss but the salary is often notably lower. A study out of the Better Hearing Institute found that those with hearing loss had a notably disparity in earnings in comparison with peers with normal hearing. Even a mild hearing loss affected earning by an average $14,000 disparity in comparison to those with no hearing loss. If your hearing loss is severe, the study found the disparity on average comes to approximately $31,000 less per year than those without a hearing loss.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you are putting off dealing with your hearing loss, consider the impact on your earnings. The good news is that while hearing loss is permanent, the use of hearing aids can help you to avoid the impact on your job performance and earnings. In the long run it will cost you more by avoiding dealing with your hearing loss. Treat your hearing loss now and start by scheduling a hearing exam.

New Standards to Protect Young Peoples’ Hearing

New Standards to Protect Young Peoples' Hearing

Our world is full of noise, now more than ever before, and it just keeps getting louder. Our city streets are crowded, and traffic and neighborhood noise can invade even our homes and workplaces. Schools and universities are full of chatting students, and hallways are dangerously loud. Technology has also brought noise closer than ever before, and teens and young people are rarely without their phones or personal listening devices, blasting music right into their ears, playing games, or chatting with friends, and are damaging their hearing each and every day.

Hearing Loss Affecting More Young People Than Ever Before

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.1 billion young people between the ages of 12 and 35 are damaging their hearing, and aren’t aware of the risks to their hearing health. Up to half of all young people don’t realize that they have unsafe listening practices, or that blasting their music today could cost them their hearing tomorrow. Young people of today risk noise induced hearing loss, and whether at school, on the commute, at the gym, or at home, they have unsafe listening practices that are harming their ears.

New Standards to Protect Young Peoples’ Hearing

The world is starting to take notice of the dangers to hearing health, especially among young people. The WHO and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have released new standards to protect young peoples’ hearing, and hope that these will be implemented all around the world. Using both education and technology, they hope that young people will start looking after their hearing health, protect their hearing, and develop safe listening habits. The guidelines are available online and the toolkit for safe listening devices and systems provides more information for parents and young people.

Education for Young People

The best way to implement change is through education. Many young people simply don’t understand the risks to their hearing health, and don’t know that what they do today will affect their hearing health for the rest of their lives. Have a conversation with the young people in your life, talk about noise induced hearing loss, and make sure they know that hearing loss will affect their future in profound ways. “Given that we have the technological know-how to prevent hearing loss, it should not be the case that so many young people continue to damage their hearing while listening to music,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general. “They must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won’t come back. This new WHO-ITU standard will do much to better safeguard these young consumers as they go about doing something they enjoy.”

Using Technology to Prevent Hearing Loss

The WHO hopes that these new standards to protect young peoples’ hearing will have an impact on the technology we use every day. Many young people risk their hearing health using personal listening devices, so the WHO wants to change the technology that we use every day. They’re encouraging manufacturers to provide more programs and features to monitor hearing health and listening practices. A “sound allowance” feature could track how many hours a day people listen, and at what volumes, and notify the user when they’ve reached the maximum safe limit for the day. This would encourage users to be more mindful of their ears, and change their listening habits. Another suggestion is that manufactures develop personalized listening profiles which would give recommendations for safe listening, notify users when they’re not listening safely, and suggest when it’s time to turn down the volume. Parental volume controls are already available on many devices, and this allows parents to monitor their child’s listening habits, and cap the maximum volume at safe volumes to protect their child’s hearing health.

Hearing Consultants

Do you have teens or young people in your life who may not be listening safely? Take the time to have a conversation with them about safe listening practices, and help them develop habits that will protect their hearing health. Then, call us today the Hearing Consultants, where we can provide a  comprehensive hearing test for each member of your family. We’ll help you educate your young people, and protect the hearing of everyone in your family.

Call us today to start your journey to safer listening and clear hearing.

Consider Hearing Protection in Your Activities

Consider Hearing Protection in Your Activities

 

Hearing is not a renewable resource. Once you damage your ears and begin experiencing hearing loss, it is not something that can grow back or repair after time. The first step towards preserving this resource is making sure you get an up-to-date hearing evaluation each year at Hearing Consultants. If you feel some experience may have damaged your hearing recently – get a test, even if it hasn’t been a year. A hearing test will give you important information on your hearing abilities and ensure that you are treated if a hearing loss is found.

Noise is everywhere

While there has been a lot of emphasis on workplace noise and noise induced hearing loss, you should be protecting your ears during what may seem like routine activities. The U.S. Department of Labor enforces regulations to protect the hearing of Americans who work in noisy places, but there is no enforcement body for Americans who don’t wear ear protection when they should during daily activities.

Recreational activities

Since the 1800s there have been reports of people losing their hearing after exposure to gun shots. Competitive shooting, skeet shooting, and trap shooting are all hobbies Americans indulge in and those activities involve guns and shooting. Some occupations require range practice and ear protection is supplied, but many Americans forgo ear protection during “hobby” activities involving fire arms. That’s a bad idea. Invest in some good protection and get into the routine of carrying it with you.

In terms of decibel range, anything over 85 decibels is starting to get you into the range of a sound that can damage your ears. The energy of a single shot of a high-powered rifle or shotgun is a sharp 90 decibels. So, exposure to one gunshot without ear protection is the equivalent of one week of noise exposure at a workplace. Looking at it in another way, a target shooter can amass a year’s worth of hazardous hearing exposure in just a few minutes at the range without ear protection.
Another recreational activity with a high noise ratio is rock concerts. The average decibel rating of a rock concert is 103.

You can recover from audio exposure from a rock concert after a few hours, or, sometimes, a few days – but ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones would let you enjoy the concert at a more respectable decibel level. If that’s not an option, consider taking a break somewhere away from the noise during the concert and then going back. Many young people are damaging their ears without realizing it when they blast their personal stereos or iPhone music at a loud level for a prolonged period of time. Some personal stereo volumes can go up to 120 decibels.

Ear protection

The two most common kinds of ear protection are ear plugs or earmuffs. Ear plugs come in a lot of styles and sizes. They are relatively comfortable, low cost and portable. They are available in sporting good stores and even at some larger drug stores and retail stores. They should be thrown out when they start losing their shape and elasticity. Ear plugs should be rolled to a smaller size and then inserted into the ear canal. They then expand to fill the space. They should be stored in their original case to keep them clean and dry.

Earmuffs fit over the ear. They are heavier and offer more protection than ear plugs. They should fit snugly over the ear forming a seal which acts as a noise barrier. They are available in fashion colors and in several different styles and weights, so it isn’t difficult to find one you – or a child – would like. There are a couple of types that will limit the volume of a personal stereo so if you have a child that keeps their stereo volume louder than you would like, this would be helpful. If you are investing in earmuffs it is good idea to find an electronics store that has a selection on hand for you to try out.

If you are a musician, you should be using ear protection because of the constant barrage of sound that is part of your profession. There is special ear protection designed for musicians and at Hearing Consultants, we can help you with that. If you are unable to find ear plugs or earmuffs that work for you, don’t hesitate to call and we can work out custom ear protection. Ear protection as well as a current hearing test from Hearing Consultants will help you protect your “resources.”

To protect your hearing, contact us at Hearing Consultants today.

Everyday Noises That Can Damage Your Hearing

Everyday Noises That Can Damage Your Hearing

 

The world is a noisy place. Everyday sounds that we often are oblivious to can damage our hearing. From household appliances to background music at restaurants or shops, loud noises are all around us. On our commute to work, we may hear cars honking, buses screeching their brakes, or the thunderous sounds of the subway train. Going out on the weekend to a loud concert or club with friends may slowly rob you of your hearing ability.

According to audiologist Natalie Gibbs, exposure to noise is the second leading cause behind hearing loss. Depending on the volume and the time exposed to it, hearing loss could be temporary, but also permanent. Knowing and understanding the noises that could affect our hearing on a daily basis is a step in mitigating hearing loss.

How You May Be Affected by Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be caused by a one-time intense burst of noise, like a gunshot or explosion. Exposure to these extremely loud sounds cause immediate damage to the fragile structures in the inner ear which may lead to permanent hearing loss. NIHL is more common though by being exposed to dangerous sound levels over time; being surrounded by the daily loud noises that we may not even notice.

According to the National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have noise induced hearing loss. It is important to remember that noise-induced hearing loss is something can impact anyone. What is appalling about this though, is that NIHL is quite preventable through the use of hearing protection.

How Loud is Too Loud? How Long is Too Long?

At what level is hearing damaged? Audiologist Natalie Gibbs says that 85 decibels (dB) is the terrible number. Decibels are used to measure the volume of sounds, which help us identify if sounds are within safe volumes or if they may damage our hearing. Once sounds reach 85dB or above, there is a potential that the noise could cause permanent damage to your hearing. The longer the exposure for sounds above this level, the more damage occurs.

You would be surprised what every day noises are listed at 85dB. Vacuum cleaners you use at home may reach this decibel level. Lawn mowers are rated around 90dB. Other everyday noises that fall into the 85-100dB range include: hair dryers, food processors, trucks or motorcycles, power tools, and yard and garden tools. Continuous exposure to these noises over 85 decibels could be damaging to our hearing ability.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, there are mandates for occupational noise exposure. With hearing protection, one can work under constant levels at 85dB for up to 8 hours. By 90dB, it is half, and at 94dB, it’s only one hour. Anything above 120dB could be enough to cause permanent hearing loss, even if only exposed once.

If you are exposed to these noises frequently, you could be at risk of permanent hearing loss. It is best to use hearing protection if you know you will be encountering any of these items.

How to Protect Yourself From Hearing Loss

First and foremost, think about the type of sounds you are exposed to in your everyday life. Are these sounds louder than 85dB? How frequent to you hear these noises at those levels? If you frequently hear sounds above this level on a daily basis, then you need to take the necessary steps to protecting your hearing.

The first steps you can take are being cognizant of the sounds your intake around you. Turning down the volume while listening to music or watching a movie helps. If you are on your way to work and encounter much noise pollution from the commute, be sure to wear hearing protection. If you’re attending a concert or sporting event, make sure to always bring earplugs. Try to avoid sitting near loud sounds if you’re out at a restaurant or cafe.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

If you feel that you may be experiencing noise-induced hearing loss, schedule an appointment to talk to us at Hearing Consultants about your hearing loss. On average, people take seven years to start their hearing loss treatment, time in which they could be learning about how to prevent further hearing loss.

Come visit us at Hearing Consultants for a hearing test. We’ll be able to determine your level of hearing loss, provide important tips to protect your hearing, and work with you in finding solutions and treatment that meet your specific needs!

 

This Fourth of July, Protect Your Family’s Hearing

This Fourth of July, Protect Your Family’s Hearing

 

It’s almost time to celebrate the red, white and blue! The Fourth of July is a wonderful time for us in the United States. It’s a time for us to honor those who gave their lives for the freedom and independence we enjoy today. July fourth is also an opportunity for us to gather with friends and family to enjoy pool time, sunshine, barbeque, and of course, awesome fireworks.

The festive, fun, and patriotic celebration of Independence Day also brings with it a real danger – one most of us likely have not considered. This danger is noise induced hearing loss, and those wonderful fireworks we look forward to each year may be to blame. Before the celebration this year, it is important to take some time to consider how you can protect your family’s hearing to enjoy a safe and healthy holiday.

How can fireworks cause hearing loss?

Excess exposure to any noise, regardless of its source, has the potential to cause hearing loss. This type of impairment is called Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) and can affect anyone at any age. In fact, it is estimated that about one in four young adults aged 20-69 do have an identifiable hearing loss and this number is only set to grow. Rates of noise induced hearing loss have been on the rise for quite some time, with an estimated 1.1 billion youth between the ages of 12-35 being at risk for developing a noise induced hearing impairment caused by recreational activities (http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss). Once acquired, noise induced hearing loss is rarely temporary and cannot be reinstated or cured. Once your hearing has been damaged by noise and is gone, its gone. This is why it is so important to remain educated about common dangers to your hearing, and how you can protect it.

Are fireworks really that loud?

Yes. Surprisingly enough, fireworks really are loud enough to cause damage to hearing, especially fireworks purchased for home use. When fired nearby, fireworks can ring in at a deafening 150-175 decibels – which is loud enough to cause instant hearing damage (https://www.boystownhospital.org/knowledgeCenter/articles/hearing/Pages/Fireworks.aspx). As perspective, an ambulance siren driving past rings in at only 120 decibels – quite a bit quieter than nearby fireworks. Fireworks are not only a sight for sore eyes, but can also be a sound to cause sore ears, too!

How do I protect my family’s hearing?

Just because fireworks have the potential to damage hearing, doesn’t mean you and your loved ones can’t participate in all the fun. There are some very easy and inexpensive steps you can take to ensure your family enjoys the festivities and protects their hearing.

 

Make plans for hearing protection.

There are many options when it comes to protecting your hearing. The best and most effective choice is custom-made earplugs designed for the purpose, however, these are not readily available to everyone. Disposable earplugs can also be effective. Disposable earplugs should have a clearly marked Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which will indicate how many decibels of sound are blocked by the plugs. It may be smart to purchase your family’s earplugs in advance to allow everyone an opportunity to test them for comfort. Smaller children’s earplugs can improve comfort for the littlest ears amongst us. Pack enough earplugs for the whole family (not just the kids!) and be sure to include a few extras.

 

Take location into consideration.

The further you are from where the fireworks are launched, the lower the noise level will be. Finding a spot that is a little bit away from the heart of the action can help to protect your family’s hearing. Being “away from it all” may also be a breath of fresh air, allowing you the room and peace to really enjoy the time with your loved ones.

 

Make adjustments as needed.

Even with hearing protection and location in mind, it is important to still be cognizant of how the sounds are affecting you and your family. If at any time you notice yourself or one of your family members covering their ears, or expressing ear pain or buzzing or ringing in the ears, it’s a sign the environment is too loud. It may be time to find a spot even more set apart or maybe even enjoy the view from indoors.

Chances are, your family won’t lose their hearing over one night of fireworks, though it is important to teach healthy hearing habits as early as possible. From our family to yours, we truly wish you a very happy, safe, fun and healthy Independence Day this year!

Save Your Senses as You Age

Save Your Senses as You Age

As part of the normal aging process many of us experience changes in our senses, from seeing less to hearing less, or noticing changes in our ability to taste, smell, and touch. A study from the University of Chicago found that tens of millions of Americans have losses in one or more of their senses as they age. This leaves you at a higher risk of falling, developing health problems like social isolation and depression, or having lower activity levels and poor nutrition. But just because you’re getting a bit older is no reason to lose your senses or give up the things you love. There are lots of ways you can save your senses and keep enjoying life no matter your age.

Seeing Clearly

As you age, focusing can become more challenging as your eye’s lenses start to stiffen, and your risk of cataracts increases. You’ll find yourself straining to see unless the light is very bright, and you may even wear reading glasses. To save your sense of sight, make sure you’re exercising regularly to increase blood flow throughout the body. Using eyedrops may help you keep your eyes hydrated, and wearing sunglasses will protect your eyes from the damaging rays from the sun. It’s also a good idea to get yearly vision exams so you can get eye glasses when you notice changes in your vision.

Hearing Clearly

Just as eyesight begins to dim with age, a long life exposed to all the loud noises of work and leisure activities leaves hearing dulled. The delicate hair cells in your inner ear face damage, meaning some sounds in your environment never reach your ear. This usually affects high frequency sounds first, and you’ll notice it’s harder to hear your grandkids talking, or hear the birds singing outside the window. Another natural part of aging is some wear and tear in the brain, meaning some of the neural pathways in the brain that deal with hearing are affected. Even if your ear can hear all the sounds, your brain can’t process the signals.

Protecting Your Hearing

One of the most important things you can do to save your hearing is to wear ear protection. Whether sanding the deck, mowing the lawn, working on a noisy jobsite, or attending a concert, ear protection will save your senses. Get in the habit of wearing earplugs whenever you’re doing loud activities, and keep an extra pair of foam earplugs in your bag to have them on hand wherever you find yourself. Once you’ve lost your hearing due to exposure to loud noise, you’ll never get it back. Hearing aids help you hear again, but can’t restore the natural hearing you’ve lost. Don’t damage your hearing, but always wear ear protection!

Another way to protect your hearing and your other senses is to live a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy bodyweight and a nutrient rich diet will ensure healthy blood circulation throughout your body, keeping blood sugar levels stable and blood pressure low. This also keeps the cells in your ears and brain healthy, protecting your hearing for years to come.

Getting Hearing Aids

If you have trouble seeing you have no problem going to the optometrist and getting glasses. Why should hearing loss be any different? If you suffer from hearing loss, the best thing you can do so save your senses is getting hearing aids as soon as possible. When you’re not hearing clearly, the cells in the brain that process the sound you’re missing don’t have anything to do. They’ll soon die, or be recycled to perform some other function. This means that when you do get hearing aids, the cells needed to hear certain frequencies won’t be there, even if the ear is able to send the signals to the brain with the help of the hearing aid. Getting hearing aids when you first notice your hearing loss means that the treatment will be far more effective, and you’ll be able to save your senses, keep your brain active, and slow your hearing loss.

Visit us at Hearing Consultants to find the perfect hearing devices that will save your senses and get you back to hearing all the sounds you’ve been missing.

4 Ways to Protect Your Hearing in 2018

4 Ways to Protect Your Hearing in 2018

With the new year, we all look forward to a fresh start with our goals and projects. According to different surveys, such as SurveyMonkey, a majority of the resolutions for 2018 are to save money or get healthy. If your resolutions fall into either of these categories, add hearing health to the list! Protecting your hearing health helps you save money and is an important part of your overall health and well-being. Here, we offer you four easy ways to protect your hearing in 2018.

Switch to Noise-Canceling Headphones

Though they are convenient and unobtrusive, earbuds are actually very dangerous to your hearing. With new wireless earbuds on the market, it may be tempting to make the switch to these devices, but it may be at the risk of your hearing health.

Earbuds are positioned deep in your ear canal, close to the eardrums. As a result, whatever sounds you stream will appear much louder than they are. This is due to the anatomy of the ear. Noise levels can rise to the equivalent of listening to a drill in a coal mine – loud enough to damage your hearing in just a short amount of time. Furthermore, earbuds don’t do a good job blocking out external noise. In other words, people who wear earbuds in noisy public spaces tend to crank up the volume on their devices and earbuds in order to listen to the music or podcasts or other media. Combined with the proximity to the eardrums, earbuds could do serious damage to your hearing, with the potential of permanent noise-induced hearing loss.

The solution: Switch to noise-canceling headphones. Though they are a bit bulkier, they do a great job at keeping out the external noises of your environment, which means you don’t have to listen to music at the max volume. Even better, follow the 60-60 rule prescribed by hearing specialists: listen to music at 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time.

Use Custom Ear Protection

Whether on the job or in your leisure time, you are exposed to various levels of noise all day. If you live in a city, the threat of noise pollution is very real. While most industries that are noisy provide employees with customized hearing protection, other industries that seem less likely culprits of hearing loss do not. For example, hair stylists and elementary school teachers do not often have to think about hearing loss as an occupational hearing hazard – but both professions do expose people to potentially dangerous levels of noise.

In your leisure time, whether you are a fan of live rock music or you enjoy DIY-construction projects, incorporate custom ear protection in your activities. Exposure to loud noise could lead to permanent hearing loss, over a gradual period of time.

The solution: You can find ear protection online, which is custom-fitted to your ear with custom earmolds and filters out dangerous levels of sound, while still giving you access to the sounds you want to hear. At the very least, carry around foam earplugs if you need them in a pinch!

Eat a Balanced & Nutritious Diet

As a medical condition – the third most common one in the US – hearing loss is linked to other parts of your life. Studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals all support healthier hearing. One study found that adults who eat several servings of fish a week actually performed better on hearing tests, compared to those who did not.

Your inner ear environment is a sensitive place, supplied with nutrients and oxygen by small blood vessels. Keeping down cholesterol and high blood pressure levels is an important part of your hearing health.

The solution: Pay attention to the nutrients in your diet! Make sure to incorporate leafy greens, fruits, and foods rich in antioxidants into your diet to support your hearing health.

Get Your Hearing Tested

Schedule an annual hearing test with us at Hearing Consultants. Hearing tests are painless and simple, and they provide you with important information on your current hearing abilities. Even if a hearing loss is not detected, or even if you don’t think you have a hearing loss, it is important to have an annual hearing test, just to keep tabs on your abilities. This provides us good background information in the event that your hearing abilities shift in the future.

The solution: Schedule a hearing test with us at Hearing Consultants today! At Hearing Consultants, we provide comprehensive hearing exams. Don’t forget to include hearing health in your 2018 goals! To schedule an appointment, get in touch with us today.

Dealing with Noise Pollution in Your Neighborhood

Dealing with Noise Pollution in Your Neighborhood

Many people aren’t aware that the sounds they hear every day could be harming their hearing, increasing their stress levels, and impacting their general health in a negative way. We take certain sounds and noises for granted as just being part of our surroundings–a lawn mower, the sound of passing traffic–these are the normal sounds that make up daily life. But when noise reaches an unnatural level it can wear away at the hearing. Though hearing loss is treatable, it is a permanent condition, and prevention is what we must strive for. It is important to know what constitutes noise pollution, if you are being exposed to an unsafe level of noise in your neighborhood, and what steps you can take to minimize noise in your home.

Noise pollution – A subtle health risk

Unlike many other bodily injuries, hearing loss can occur without causing pain or immediate obvious symptoms, and for this reason it is a subtle but serious health risk. According to David Sykes of the Acoustic Research Council, “It’s a survival mechanism. Your body isn’t designed to turn off your hearing or to always know when its hearing mechanism is being damaged. The most dangerous thing is when you’re exposed, but you don’t feel pain because of the exposure.”

Our ears are amazingly adept at picking up sound vibrations, which have to travel through an intricate, complex system to reach our brains. An average human with healthy ears can hear from 20-20,000 HZ, though this does decrease somewhat with age. And hearing in all of these frequencies, from birds chirping to people talking on the street, adds to the fullness of each day, helps to round out our many experiences–some mundane, some monumental.

But there are also times when sound becomes bothersome, and we wish we could turn off our ears for a little while. Many people who live in cities know this feeling all too well. Traffic, sirens, construction, loud music blasting from clubs and bars–it is often man-made noises that are the hardest to endure, and the most harmful to the ears. When noise in a neighborhood is constant, inescapable, and loud enough to harm the ears, we call it noise pollution.

Why is noise pollution harmful?

Although the inhabitants of very noisy neighborhoods may be troubled by the constant intrusion of noise into their homes, they may not always realize that this type of pollution, just like air and water pollution, can impact their health in lasting ways.

High noise levels have long been known to contribute to hearing loss. Though the sound level above which damage can occur is widely recognized as 85 dB (decibels), the sound threshold for damage is actually lower. If someone is exposed for a 24-hour period, the EPA recommends a decibel limit of just 55 dB. The average dishwasher or washing machine is 70.

The constant influx of unwanted sound also disturbs sleep and acts as a daily stressor, triggering our bodies’ fight or flight response and raising blood pressure levels. Researchers have now linked noise pollution to heart conditions such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 3 percent of ischemic heart disease in Europe can be attributed to long-term exposure to traffic noise.

Then there are the negative psychological effects, with people living in noisy areas reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety, nervousness, and fatigue. Research also shows that growing up in heavy noise pollution has an extremely detrimental effect on child development, including a child’s acquisition of language.

What are the major sources of noise pollution?

As cities are getting louder and louder, there also is a growing public awareness of the hazards of noise, and a strong desire among health experts and researchers to see noise pollution defined as a major public health issue, rather than just a nuisance. So, what are the major contributors of unwanted noise in a neighborhood?

Industrial activity, construction, airport noise, and traffic sounds are the primary sources of noise pollution, though unwanted noise can come from a variety of other places as well. Here is a list of some common sources of noise in neighborhood:

  • – Traffic sounds from a major highway or freeway
  • – Music and event venues with loudspeakers
  • – Construction sites with heavy machinery
  • – Airport traffic passing overhead
  • – Living in close proximity to barking dogs
  • – Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and other loud domestic machinery
  • – Frequently passing trains
  • – Living near a fire or police station

How to defend yourself against noise pollution

If you are living in an area with a bothersome level of noise, and you have exhausted your means of trying to protect your home from it, you might want to consider contacting your local government, who are responsible for handling issues of noise pollution. Most cities and states enforce quiet hours from the late evening to early morning, during which time no loud noise is allowed. Speaking to your neighborhood association is also a good idea–they may share your concerns and be able to help.

As a first step to reduce noise from your neighborhood, and if space allows, consider building an elevated fence around your home, with an abundance of vegetation to help shield your home from unwanted racket. A water feature like a fountain will add gentle white noise to help cancel out unpleasant sounds.

You can reduce noise pollution in your own home by placing foam or vibration mounts under major appliances, using drapes and curtains for your windows (rather than blinds), installing carpet or linoleum, and sealing any cracks or holes in your doors with foam sealant or caulk.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

Do you live in a particularly loud area? Are you worried about how noise pollution may affect your hearing abilities? Contact our team at Hearing Consultants for a hearing test.