It’s not often that we enjoy complete silence. From traffic to leaf blowers to construction equipment to music played through headphones, we’re often surrounded by noise. With all that sound exposure, our ears can sustain permanent damage that results in hearing loss. Recognizing the risk of noise induced hearing loss and strategies for prevention is important. Once your ears have been damaged and you’ve begun to experience hearing loss, there is no way to reverse it.
The Reality of Noise Induced Hearing Loss
In the United States, 48 million people have trouble hearing in one or both of their ears, and hearing loss often begins at a young age. 5 in 10 young people listen to their music too loudly, and 4 in 10 young people have been exposed to dangerously loud environments like concerts, firework displays, or sporting events. Loud noises cause stress to the tiny ear fibers, or hairs, that detect sounds in the inner ear. With repeated stress, these cells can die off, causing you to lose your ability to hear.
Noise induced hearing loss is cumulative, so one noisy event will likely only cause temporary hearing loss. However, repeated exposure to loud noises will continue to damage ear fibers, and the damage will eventually become permanent. Loud noises can also damage the auditory nerve, and this type of damage is harder to diagnose because it is not visible in the structure of the ear.
Steps to Protect Your Hearing
Hearing loss typically occurs gradually. You may notice that you are not as sensitive to loud noises as you once were, you have trouble picking up on conversational speech (especially when people are whispering), or voices often sound muffled. You may also have a ringing in your ears or feel pain in the ears. Once you notice these signs, some level of hearing loss has already occurred. However, you can take steps to slow down the progression of hearing loss or stop it from happening in the first place.
Use Ear Protection – In loud workplaces like factories and construction sites, ear protection is a necessity. However, many people fail to realize that ear protection is also valuable in everyday situations. Activities like mowing the lawn, going to a concert, or even walking along a busy street can be noisy enough to damage your ears and affect your hearing. As a rule, if you have to yell to be heard by others around you, you should be wearing ear protection to block out the excess noise. When you are in noisy environments, a pair of earplugs can reduce noise and protect your ears. Earmuffs can offer more tailored noise cancelation with different levels of protection for different environments. For example, hunters might use level-dependent earmuffs that only block out loud noises but do not block sound in quiet environments.
Watch the Volume on Your Headphones and Speakers – If you tend to crank the volume on your headphones or television, you could be causing damage to your hearing every day. Captions can help you keep the TV at a lower volume, and headphones should never be turned up to full volume.
Take Breaks from Loud Environments – If you attend a concert or sporting event, try to position yourself further away from speakers and bring hearing protection with you. It’s also helpful to step away to a quieter location throughout the show, such as the bathroom or venue lobby.
Get Your Hearing Checked – The only way to know for sure if you’re suffering from hearing loss is to have your hearing checked by a physician. If you do have hearing loss, you may benefit from a hearing aid or other assistive listening devices.
Your hearing can significantly impact your quality of life, so you should take steps to protect your hearing at every stage of life. MeMD can help you stay on top of your health and wellness with convenient video visits anytime, anywhere.