Custom Hearing Protection
Noise-induced hearing loss, hearing loss caused by exposure to noise, is one of the most common forms of hearing loss.
How loud is too loud?
Sound is measured in units called decibels. Even after prolonged and repeated exposure, sounds with fewer than 75-80 decibels are safe. You can listen to them all day and still won't be affected. But noises above 85 decibels can be hazardous to hearing health.
Eight hours of exposure per day is the maximum when it comes to sounds up to 85 decibels. When the sound is louder, exposure time needs to be drastically reduced. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) guidelines for safe listening suggests that exposure time should be reduced by half for every 3-decibel increase of sound after 85dB:
- 85dB: 8 hours
- 88dB: 4 hours
- 91dB: 2 hours
- 94dB: 30min
Exceeding these safety thresholds - one time or consistently - can irreparably damage your hearing.
How does noise damage your hearing?
When you're exposed to loud noise, the delicate hair cells in the cochlea are damaged. There are thousands of hair cells in each ear that serve as sensory receptors, playing a critical role in how we hear and process sound. These hair cells convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals which get carried to the brain. The brain is then able to further analyze these signals and assign meaning to them which is how we can understand what we hear.
Loud noise can cause hair cells to lose sensitivity, becoming increasingly vulnerable to dying. The decomposition of these hair cells prevents the brain from obtaining the necessary sound signals to process making it difficult to analyze and understand sound, resulting in hearing loss. Moreover, unlike other types of cells, hair cells in the inner ear do not regenerate after the cells have been destroyed. There are also no medical interventions that can correct this damage or replenish these hair cells which means that the resulting hearing loss is permanent.
How does custom hearing protection prevent hearing loss?
Here are signs to look out for:
- Sounds are distorted or silenced.
- You can hear people talk but have trouble understanding the words.
- Conversations from 3 feet away or further are hard to understand.
- You prefer TV volume at a higher level than others.
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves.
- Tinnitus - a buzzing or ringing noise in the ears.
Paying attention to these signs and seeking treatment as soon as possible can profoundly transform your hearing health.
What are the warning signs of hearing loss?
If your ears ring or muffle after exposure to loud noises, it could mean that your hearing has been affected. These effects, as stated above, are cumulative and should not be taken lightly. It is important to notice when noise levels are high in your surroundings and to protect your hearing in the future.
Exposure to extremely loud noise can cause sudden hearing loss. War veterans often suffer from this form of hearing loss, due to exposure in the field. Alternatively, we may acquire noise-induced hearing loss gradually over a lifetime of exposure, whether in the workplace (factory, construction) or leisure activities (i.e. hunting, loud concerts, sports events).