October is Protect Your Hearing Month

October is Protect Your Hearing Month

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

Did you know that October is National Protect Your Hearing Month? A campaign to raise awareness about hearing loss, this month is a great reminder to prioritize your health by learning what you can do to reduce your risk of developing hearing loss. 

What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is the third most common, chronic, medical condition that people experience today. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss reduces the capacity to hear and process sound which has major effects on daily life including straining communication. Several factors can contribute to the development of hearing loss – existing medical conditions, aging, head/neck injuries, etc. One of the most common causes is one-time or regular exposure to loud noise. 

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by higher levels of sound which damage critical parts of the auditory system. Loud noise can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear, cells that do not regenerate by causing them to lose sensitivity and/or die. These hair (or sensory) cells help translate incoming soundwaves into electrical signals that then travel to the brain where they are further processed. This allows us to understand the speech and sound we hear so when hair cells are damaged, this process is disrupted which results in hearing loss. 

How Loud is Too Loud?

Sound is measured in decibels (dB), and noise above 85dB can be harmful to hearing health. People can be consistently exposed to sounds above 85dB which include: 

  • Household appliances: lawnmower, power tools, vacuum cleaner, hairdryer. 
  • Social activities: busier restaurants and bars, concerts, sporting games. 
  • Travel: subway train, airplane, motorbike. 
  • Electronic devices: listening to audio through headphones for example can reach up to 110dB on higher volume settings. 

Experts suggest that people can be exposed to 85dB of sound for 8 hours a day without harming their hearing. But exposure time to higher volumes should be adjusted. Safe listening guidelines include: 

  • 85dB: 8 hours
  • 88dB: 4 hours
  • 91dB: 2 hours

Depending on the volume of sound, loud noise can damage hearing within several hours to seconds. It is important to monitor and adjust your exposure so that you are absorbing fewer levels of noise that can irreparably damage your hearing. 

Ways to Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Fortunately, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. By integrating simple safety measures into your daily life, you can effectively protect your hearing health. A few tips include: 

  1. Wear hearing protection: when navigating noisier settings, wear hearing protection which offers your ears a protective barrier from loud noise. You can wear headphones or earplugs, protective wear that is easy to travel with! 
  2. Turn down the volume: maintaining lower volume settings on your audio devices is a useful way to protect your ears. Investing in noise cancellation headphones is a helpful way to do this! This technology reduces background noise, preventing you from increasing the volume while moving through louder spaces. 
  3. Reduce noise exposure: when you can, avoid places with loud environments. This can include avoiding restaurants and bars during peak hours, taking alternate routes to avoid heavy traffic areas, driving with your windows rolled up to reduce environmental noise, etc. 
  4. Take listening breaks: we are constantly absorbing sound. From commuting, listening to music, moving through the work environment, having conversations, etc. Try to take a short break every hour where you step away from louder noise, this gives your ears and brain a helpful break!
  5. Have hearing tested: having your hearing tested regularly is a great way to identify your hearing needs and track any changes you may experience. Hearing loss typically happens gradually over time so you may not notice it for quite some time. Assessing your hearing can lead to early intervention which significantly helps transform hearing health! 

Schedule A Hearing Test Today

This month is a great time to schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Facilitated by our team, hearing tests involve a painless process that identifies and establishes your hearing needs. Having your hearing assessed is especially important if you work in noisier settings or are exposed to higher volumes of sound regularly. We recommend getting your hearing tested yearly!