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Did you know that October is National Protect Your Hearing Month? The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders started this campaign several years ago. It’s a time to learn more about noise-induced hearing loss, what causes hearing loss, and what you can do to protect your hearing.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
What exactly is noise-induced hearing loss? You guessed it; this type of hearing loss is caused by noise. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is permanent hearing loss caused by exposure to dangerously loud noise.
Some sounds are just too loud. These sounds can actually damage the cells in the inner ear. And once these cells are damaged, you’ll have hearing loss. The cells in the ear can’t be repaired, so NHIL never goes away.
What Sounds Can Cause Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Not all sounds cause hearing loss. Any sounds under 85 decibels (dB) are safe. This includes normal conversation, the dishwasher, a quiet vacuum cleaner, garbage disposal, or moderate city traffic.
However, many daily sounds can cause hearing loss. These sounds are all over 85 dB:
- An ATV or recreational vehicle
- A motorbike
- A subway train
- A garbage truck
- Heavy machinery
- A lawnmower
- A chainsaw and other power tools
- A music concert
- A crowded restaurant or bar
- Listening to music with earbuds
- A gunshot
- A jet flying 100 feet overhead
These noises are all pretty common, and they can all cause noise-induced hearing loss.
Moderately loud sounds will cause hearing loss in several hours. But certain sounds can damage your hearing in just minutes. And when sounds are painfully loud, hearing loss can happen in just a couple of seconds.
Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Unlike other kinds of hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. You can take steps to lower your risk of hearing loss. These are some of the ways you can protect your hearing:
- Wear hearing protection. Whenever you’re around moderately loud noise, wear hearing protection! Foam or wax earplugs are small, lightweight, and inexpensive. You can easily have a pair in your bag or pocket and slip them into your ears whenever sounds get too loud.
- Take some breaks. If you’re at a concert or working on a noisy job site, take some breaks. At least once every hour, take a couple of minutes to walk away from the noise and give your ears a chance to rest.
- Turn down the volume. If you spend hours every day listening to music with earbuds, turn down the volume! Listening with the volume turned up too loud can damage your hearing in just a few minutes.
- Test your hearing. Another important part of protecting your hearing is getting regular hearing tests. Hearing loss can be gradual, so you might not notice it at first. But even if you’re not consciously aware of your hearing loss, it can start causing problems. You’ll have a harder time following conversations, and you may feel more isolated and alone. It also impacts your job performance, increasing your risk of mishearing some critical information and making a mistake.
Book a Hearing Test
Regular hearing tests are just as important as regular checkups with your doctor. Testing your hearing will help you establish a baseline, so you’ll know exactly what sounds you can hear. At the next test, it’s easy to see if your hearing is changing and find out if you need to take more precautions to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.
Adults under 50 should book a hearing test at least every 4 or 5 years. If you work in a noisy profession, we recommend getting your hearing tested every year. Adults over 50 should prioritize hearing tests. We recommend getting hearing tests every 1 to 2 years.
Learn More During Protect Your Hearing Month
Now is the perfect time to learn more about your hearing health. If you can’t remember when you last got a hearing test, book one this month! We’ll show you exactly what sounds you’re hearing and identify any areas of concern. If you have hearing loss, we have a huge range of hearing aids to suit every hearing need and budget. Your hearing aids should be able to keep up with you, so we’ll help you find the hearing aids that match your lifestyle.