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Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

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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, as do those who live in very loud neighborhoods. 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 assessment. 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.