October is National Protect Your Hearing Month and a great time to remind everyone not to take your hearing for granted. Did you know that that noise-induced hearing loss can develop at any age? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that of 40 million Americans between 20 and 60 years of age approximately 25% of U.S. adults who report having good-to-excellent hearing have some hearing damage in one or both ears. Even children are at risk of losing their hearing if healthy hearing habits are not taught by parents and teachers. Knowing common hearing hazards is good place to start.
Hearing Hazards Are All Around Us
You might not know this, but many of us face noisy environments – defined as those where people must shout to be heard – on a fairly regular basis. That places you at a risk of hearing loss. Watching television or listening to music at high volumes also poses a risk especially if you are listening through earbuds or headphones. Exposure to long or repeated periods of time to sounds at or above 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) places you at risk of hearing loss. Here are the dBAs associated with common experiences from noisiest/highest threat to lowest threat of hearing loss:
- Fireworks – 140 to 160 dBA
- Emergency vehicle sirens – 110 to 129 dBA
- Sports events – 94 to 110 dBA
- Lawnmowers – 80 to 100 dBA
- Normal conversation – 60 to 70 dBA
Hearing Protection Measures
The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) created a smartphone app, Sound of Level Meter. It is a decibel meter app that enables workers to measure sound risks in their working environment in order to protect their hearing from potential damage. There are also other ways to protect your hearing. For example, when expecting to encounter high noise volumes, you can wear ear plugs or earmuffs. You can also lower volumes on your audio-visual devices and all cases, you can simply leave any environment where the noise level is to loud to bear.
Regardless of your age, it also is important to have your hearing tested regularly. A hearing test will not only determine if your hearing lies within the normal range, but it also can uncover other medical conditions. For instance, hearing loss can be an indication of diabetes or high blood pressure, which can also cause tinnitus (i.e., ringing in the ears). For individuals with an underlying medical condition, treating it often will alleviate the hearing problem. Patients with a hearing problem left untreated can incur other problems ranging from anxiety and depression to other potential health and safety hazards. Recognizing the telltale signs that you may be experiencing a hearing problem is important for everyone.
Are You Experiencing a Hearing Loss?
If any of these conditions apply to you, it is especially important for you to have a hearing test:
-Often ask people to repeat what they are saying
-Unable to hear high-pitched sounds
-Have ringing in your ears
-Do not use the telephone as frequently as before due to an inability to hear well
-Live or work in a high noise level environment which has been proven to cause hearing loss; sometimes permanent loss of hearing
Use National Protect Your Hearing Month as a motivator to have your hearing tested and encourage those around to do the same.