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The most common cause of hearing loss is through aging, and there’s little we can do about it. But what we can do is protect our hearing from the second biggest cause, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). According to the Center for Disease Control, almost one in four of U.S. adults aged 20 to 69 years shows signs of suffering from hearing loss developed through exposure to noise. Here are some of the everyday noises that could be contributing to your hearing damage.
The first threat of hearing damage comes not long after our morning shower. Hairdryers can cause hearing damage if we leave them on for long enough. The bursts of noise also make them an occupational hazard for hair stylists. Be careful when using them not to keep them on for too long and you should be ok. The same goes for vacuum cleaners, clothes dryers and food blenders.
As the weather warms, many people’s thoughts turn to maintenance around the house. Watch out when you are using lawn mowers, leaf and snow blowers, chainsaws and pruners as the noise can get damaging when you use them for long enough. Leaf blowers in particular get as loud as 100db, which means you can only be exposed to the din for a maximum of 4 minutes before the noise starts to get dangerous for you ears.
On your commute
Your morning commute puts you at prime risk for hearing loss, because of how much regular time you spend travelling to work. The noise inside the average subway car can get up to 85 decibels, which makes it very temping for commuters to crank up the volume as they stream their music, podcasts and TV shows. This is a bad idea as you end up fighting sound with more sound, which can be bad news for the delicate hair cells in your inner ear.
At the weekend
Watching your local sports team perform is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon. But sport stadiums can also be arenas of noise. Sitting in a stadium full of loud music for the half-time show and screaming fans for three hours is very damaging for your ears. When the home team scores, they can get as loud as standing next to a jet engine!
Music lovers should also take note. Live music of the classical or pop variety can be equally dangerous. We’ve all had our ears ring after a particularly loud show. This is your ears telling you not to do that again. If you don’t take care of your ears, that ringing is likely to become permanent.
Restaurants have also gotten louder over the years. The popular restaurant review site Zagat has found that loud noise is the thing diners have complained about, more than service, crowds, or even problems with food. In a New York Times investigation, a reporter walked around 37 bars and restaurants across New York City with a decibel meter, and found that 30% of the venues exceeded the recommended sound levels for food and drink establishments.
Although noise is all around us, we can take action to protect ourselves. It’s very important to wear adequate hearing protection whenever necessary. These are most appropriate when you are in places which are subjected to the highest levels of noise for a sustained period, such as music concerts and sports games. Silicone and foam earplugs are widely available in drug stores, but for those who like to go one further, look for custom hearing protection. Made from molds of your ear, they provide the best hearing protection against noise.
If you’re unsure when protection is necessary, there are a range of smartphone apps nowadays that will tell you how loud your surroundings are. Take advantage of these and protect yourself when the dB level goes over 90db.
Lastly, commuters can do a lot worse than a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. They reduce the need to jack the sound up on public transport and in cafes, and you can stream content at a much more manageable level without having to turn the volume up. But no matter what earphones you own, you should follow the 60/60 rule: Listen at 60% of the volume for no longer than 60 minutes at a time, and take regular breaks.
Are you concerned that you might have noise induced hearing loss? It’s better to know sooner rather than later. Book a hearing test with us at Exceptional Hearing Care today.