Monitoring Daily Noise Exposure Could Help Prevent Hearing Loss

Monitoring Daily Noise Exposure Could Help Prevent Hearing Loss
Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

There are just so many enjoyable sounds that we hear every day that are at a safe level that won’t damage our hearing. However, sounds can be harmful when they are too loud—even for a short time—or when they are long lasting, when they are not quite as loud. These sounds can damage parts of the inner ear and ultimately cause permanent hearing loss. This permanent hearing loss will then worsen over a lifetime.

What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

Noiseinduced hearing loss (NIHL) is hearing impairment resulting from exposure to loud sound. People may develop a loss of perception of a narrow range of frequencies or impaired perception of sound including sensitivity to sound or tinnitus (a ringing of the ears).  Hearing loss from noise can happen to anyone at any age.

Who is at Risk?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults around the world are at risk for hearing loss from unsafe use of audio devices or from exposure to dangerous sound levels at places like nightclubs or sporting events. WHO’s study found that nearly 50% of all teenagers and young adults put themselves at risk for NIHL with personal audio devices and 40% risk it with damaging volumes at entertainment venues. That’s a lot of young people who might permanently damage their ears.

Health Risks of Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise induced hearing loss can have significant, negative effects on other aspects of life. Speech, language acquisition and comprehension, communication, learning, and social development are all affected.

For young adults, such damage to the ears not only causes noise-induced hearing loss, but also accelerates the process of age-related hearing loss later in life. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a slew of health concerns including heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline and dementia, and depression.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is 100% preventable; however, once acquired, it is permanent and irreversible. Understanding and minimizing the risks associated with noise exposures are the keys to preventing noise-related hearing loss.

Protect Yourself from NIHL by Monitoring your Exposure Limit 

Occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. Each year, about 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work. The Noise Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has created Recommended Exposure Level or REL.  Based on research the REL for occupational noise exposure is 85 decibels. Exposures at or above this level are considered hazardous. When noise at this level continues through an eight-hour work day or longer this can become extremely dangerous for your hearing health. The NIOSH REL is an occupational exposure limit, and was set to protect workers from developing hearing loss over the course of a forty-year working career. It’s important that REL should be applied to recreation as well, whether using a motorcycle, a lawn mower at home or even using headphones with a personal listened device.

How to Protect Your Ears

Risk of hearing loss from noise exposure is not a simple issue.  Some single, brief and loud exposures such as a gunshot going off near your ear can cause immediate hearing loss. However, most noise-induced hearing loss is a result of accumulated damage from repeated exposures to hazardous noise at work or recreation. As headphone listening with portable devices becomes more popular, we’re seeing more reported incidents of hearing loss. Cranking up the volume to unsafe levels can lead to permanent damage.

The simplest solution is to keep the volume of your device turned down to 60% at the most of the volume of your device.  Avoid loud noises when you can and when you can’t make sure you carry effective hearing protection.  Remember to take breaks when exposing yourself to loud sounds and give yourself at least 18 hours for your ears to recover from loud noises before exposing yourself again.

Professional Hearing Services

The earlier hearing loss is detected, the earlier something can be done about it. Contact us at Professional Hearing Services to set up a hearing test as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to have regular hearing checks at least once a year if you’re at a higher risk of noise-induced hearing. We also provide custom hearing protection to help preserve your hearing. Contact us today!


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