More than 36 million Americans have hearing loss (some estimates place the number as high as 43 million). More than half of those individuals are under the age of 65. One of the leading causes of hearing loss is exposure to excessive amounts of noise. When you don’t protect your ears from the ravages of sounds that are too loud you can cause hearing loss. Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds is called a noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). A NIHL can occur immediately, or it can take a long time to be noticeable. It can be temporary or permanent, affecting one ear or both ears.
A Problem Later
While a sudden loss of hearing from exposure to loud sounds can occur, it is more common to experience a gradual change in your ability to hear. The change will typically occur over a long period of time. And that’s a problem. As with most health issues that occur slowly, we ignore what isn’t a problem today hoping it won’t be a problem later.
But later always comes sooner than you think it will. The problem will start with trouble hearing in groups and in noisy rooms which you’ll probably blame on the size of the group or the amount of noise in the room. Then you’ll need the TV or radio louder than everyone else does to hear what’s being said. Next, you might start to avoid going to places where you know you’ll struggle to hear, for example movie theaters and restaurants.
Can NIHL be Prevented?
What’s the best way to avoid the “problem later” scenario as it relates to a NIHL? Most NIHL is preventable. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself from sounds loud enough to cause hearing loss.
Create Distance Between Yourself and Loud Sounds
You don’t always know when you may be exposed to loud noises. If a loud noise occurs unexpectedly, plug your ears with your fingers and walk away. The farther you are from the source of the noise the less likely it is that the noise will damage your hearing
Use Hearing Protection
When you know you’ll be around loud sounds, remember to use earplugs. Fireworks displays or motorsports event are good examples….be prepared by bringing along earplugs or headphones designed to provide protection from loud sounds.
Turn Down the Volume
There are many social events you may attend where you are exposed to loud sounds. Holiday parties whether indoors or outdoors can become quite loud. Wearing hearing protection at such an event is not often practical. So, limit the time you expose yourself to the noise and when you can’t, keep as much distance as you can between yourself and the source of the music. Limit your use of headphones and ear buds. And remember when you do use them keep the volume turned down low.
If you’d like information about different forms of hearing protection, please call our office today.