How to Prevent Hearing Loss

What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Every day, we experience sounds in our environment, such as the sounds from television and radio, household appliances, and traffic. Normally, these sounds are at safe levels that don’t damage our hearing. But sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, even for a brief time, or when they are both loud and long-lasting. These sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss.

Hearing loss can be immediate or it can take a long time to be noticeable. It can be temporary or permanent, and it can affect one ear or both ears. Even if you can’t tell that you are damaging your hearing, you could have trouble hearing in the future, such as not being able to understand other people when they talk, especially on the phone or in a noisy room. Regardless of how it might affect you, one thing is certain: noise-induced hearing loss is something you can prevent.

What Causes Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense “impulse” sound, such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time, such as noise generated in a woodworking shop.

Here are the average decibel ratings of some familiar sounds:

  • The humming of a refrigerator
    45 decibels
  • Normal conversation
    60 decibels
  • Noise from heavy city traffic
    85 decibels
  • An MP3 player at maximum volume
    105 decibels
  • Lawn Mower
    110 decibels
  • Planes and firearms
    120+ decibels

How to Prevent Hearing Loss?

Your distance from the source of the sound and the length of time you are exposed to the sound are also important factors in protecting your hearing. A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are too loud, too close, or last too long.

Limiting recreational activities that can put you at risk for hearing loss such as target shooting and hunting, snowmobile riding, listening to MP3 players at high volume through earbuds or headphones, playing in a band, and attending loud concerts can all contribute to you naturally enjoying the sounds life for a very long time. Harmful noises at home may come from sources including lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and woodworking tools.

Sound is measured in units called decibels. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.

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