Hearing loss isn’t just something that affects the aging. The way that our culture has so quickly adapted to personal technology devices and the dependence upon headphones or earbuds has greatly impacted the way hearing loss is appearing in much younger people.
The classification of noise induced hearing loss is when too loud sounds irrevocably damage the delicate cells of the inner ear. These cells function as the receivers of sound information and once damage occurs, healthy hearing begins to decline.
Its presentation can be slow and subtle, with the loss first of frequencies rather than an overall lowering or eradicating of volume. This is, of course, the case with noise induced hearing loss that occurs because of too loud noise environments and prolonged exposure over a long period of time. Some instances of of noise induced hearing loss can occur quite suddenly, such as a loud explosion or crash, in which hearing faculties are irreversible and considerably damaged in an instant.
Before, we might have warned folks working in certain industries about the way their jobs might result in eventual noise induced hearing loss if proper precautions weren’t taken. The loudest fields remain agriculture, military, construction and manufacturing. Because of the very real danger of potential hearing loss, those industries were heavily regulated to protect the hearing health of workers. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) imposes strict limits on the types of sound workers can be exposed to and the duration of time that exposure can last.
Today, though, no one is regulating the noise exposure produced by the constant use of cell phones and personal devices.
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global warning on unsafe use of personal audio devices, stating that more than a billion teenagers and young adults were at risk of hearing loss. They classified unsafe exposure to be noise in excess of 85 decibels for eight hours or 100 decibels for 15 minutes. To put things into perspective, a rock concert typically measures around 100 to 120 decibels. Real hearing damage can be done in about two minutes with exposure to sound measuring 110 decibels, so it’s nothing to take lightly. iPhones in Europe have a maximum volume of around 100 decibels, which is only slightly higher in the United States, at around 100 to 115 decibels.
So why would the very thing that is causing so much damage end up being the solution to unnecessary early hearing loss? Well, how we listen is as important as our listening behavior. With a pair of standard headphones, which freely allow outside noise to disrupt the listening experience, you’re tempted to crank up the volume on your phone call or music streaming session. This can result in damaging volumes. However, noise canceling headphones tune out that background noise so that your device’s volume can remain lower and still retain a quality listening experience. In essence, you hear what you want to hear and tune out the rest.
A really good pair of noise canceling headphones is an investment that can set you back between $50 and up to a few hundred dollars, depending on the quality of the product you choose. However, it’s really an investment in your listening experience and your long term hearing health. In fact, the 2015 WHO report specifically suggested noise canceling headphones as one of three ways to protect your ears.
In addition to noise canceling headphones, you can take other precautions to protect healthy hearing function. For starters, begin to notice the volumes on your devices. Try taking it down to the lowest setting that still allows you to hear clearly. Note where the volume level is and try to maintain it, despite an urge to raise it if your environment becomes noisier or if you just really love that song.
Take listening breaks from your personal devices throughout the day. It’s easy to just stay plugged in, but every four hours or so give your ears twenty minutes to remember the sound of silence.
Are you concerned about your hearing abilities? Our team at Hearing Consultants provides comprehensive hearing services, including hearing testing and hearing aid fittings. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.