HEARING TIPS

Healthy Hearing Resolutions for 2017

Image of a notebook with the text 2017 New Year’s Resolution

It’s the New Year, which for most of us means pledging to eat better, work out more, and save more money. But we might want to add to this list the resolution to protect our hearing.

In 2016, we saw an abundance of reports regarding the expanding epidemic of hearing loss. The World Health Organization has alerted us that billions of people are at risk from exposure to loud noise volumes at work, at home, and at play.

We also found out that even teens are at risk, as the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1990s.

The bottom line is that our hearing can be injured at work, while attending concerts, and even at home through the use of earbuds and headphones played at excessive volumes.

This year, let’s all get started on the right track by making some basic resolutions to protect and conserve our hearing health.

1. Know how loud is too loud

First of all, how can you know how loud is too loud, and how can you know when your hearing is at risk?

To start with, sound is measured in units called decibels. As the decibel level rises, the intensity level of the sound increases along with the risk of hearing damage.

Here’s a list of sounds with their corresponding decibel levels. Keep in mind that any sound above 85 decibels can potentially harm your hearing with continued exposure.

  • Whisper in a tranquil library – 30 decibels (dB)
  • Normal conversation – 60 dB
  • City traffic – 85 dB
  • Jackhammer at 50 feet – 95 dB
  • Motorcycle – 100 dB
  • Music player at max volume – 100+ dB
  • Power saw at three feet – 110 dB
  • Loud rock concert – 115 dB
  • 12-Gauge Shotgun Blast – 165 dB

Keep in mind that with the decibel scale, a 10 dB increase is perceived by the human ear as being two times as loud. This means that a rock concert at 110 dB is 32 times louder than a normal conversation at 60 dB.

2. Safeguard your ears

Hearing damage is dependent upon three factors: 1) the volume or intensity of the sound, 2) the amount of time exposed to the sound, and 3) the distance between your ears and the sound source.

That means, in general, there are three ways you can protect against hearing damage from exposure to loud noise:

  1. Limit the volume with the use of earplugs (or by decreasing the volume on an mp3 player).
  2. Limit the time of exposure to the noise either by avoiding it or by taking rest breaks.
  3. Increase the distance from the sound source as far as possible (for example, not standing directly in front of the speakers during a rock concert).

Here are some other tips to protect your hearing:

  • Apply the 60/60 rule when listening to music on a mobile device—listen for no more than 60 minutes at 60 percent of the maximum volume.
  • Consult with your employer about its hearing protection programs if you work in an at-risk profession.
  • Use hearing protection at noisy locations and during loud activities. Budget friendly foam earplugs are available at your local pharmacy, and customized earplugs are available from your local hearing specialist.
  • Purchase noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones block outside sound so you can listen to the music at reduced volumes.
  • Invest in musicians plugs, a special kind of earplug that reduces volume without producing the dull sound of foam earplugs.

3. Know the signs and symptoms of hearing loss

Hearing loss occurs when the nerve cells of the inner ear are damaged. Below are a few of the signs of hearing loss to look for directly after exposure to loud sounds:

  • Ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus.
  • The feeling of “fullness” in your ears.
  • Difficulty comprehending speech, where everything sounds muffled.

Those are a few of the signs of hearing damage immediately after exposure. Here are the signs of long-term hearing loss:

  • Asking others to repeat themselves often, or constantly misinterpretation what people are saying.
  • Having trouble following conversations and making fine distinctions between similar sounding words.
  • Turning the television or radio volume up to the point where others notice.
  • Thinking that other people are always mumbling.
  • Having difficulty hearing on the phone.

Most often, your friends or family members will be the first to notice your hearing loss. It’s easy to brush this off, but in our experience, if someone is told they have hearing loss by a family member, chances are good that they do.

4. Get a hearing test

Finally, it’s important to obtain a hearing test, for a couple of reasons. One, if your hearing is normal, you can not only inform others that your hearing is fine, you’ll also establish a baseline to compare future hearing tests.

Second, if the hearing test does show hearing loss, you can work together with your hearing care professional to select the ideal hearing plan, which usually includes the use of hearing aids. And with modern technology, you can restore your hearing and improve almost every aspect of your life.

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