Hearing loss is a common health problem that affects millions of people around the world. It can be caused by many factors, such as aging, genetics, infections, diseases, injuries, or exposure to loud noise. Hearing loss can have a negative impact on your quality of life, affecting your communication, social interactions, education, work, and mental health.
Fortunately, hearing loss can be prevented or treated in many cases. One of the most effective ways to prevent hearing loss is to protect your hearing from loud noise. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a type of hearing loss that occurs when the tiny hair cells in your inner ear are damaged by loud sounds. These hair cells are responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to your brain. Once they are damaged, they cannot be repaired or replaced.
How loud is too loud?
The loudness of sound is measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder the sound. The duration of exposure to sound also affects how much damage it can cause to your hearing. The longer you are exposed to loud noise, the more likely you are to develop NIHL.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any sound that is 85 dB or higher can cause hearing loss over time. For reference, normal conversation is about 60 dB, a lawnmower is about 90 dB, a rock concert is about 110 dB, and a firework is about 150 dB. The CDC also provides a noise meter that shows how loud different sounds are and how you can protect your ears when you are around them.
How to protect your hearing from loud noise?
There are several ways to protect your hearing from loud noise, such as:
- Avoiding noisy situations whenever possible. If you know that you will be exposed to loud noise, plan ahead and choose quieter activities or places.
- Turning down the volume of the TV, radio, music, or other devices that produce sound. If you use headphones or earbuds, follow the 60/60 rule: listen at no more than 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes per day.
- Walking away from the source of loud noise or moving to a quieter spot. Even a few feet of distance can make a big difference in reducing the sound level.
- Taking breaks from the noise. If you are exposed to loud noise for a long time, give your ears some rest and allow them to recover.
- Using hearing protection devices such as earplugs or earmuffs when you cannot avoid loud noise. Hearing protection devices reduce the level of sound that enters your ear, but they do not block it completely. They come in different types and sizes and have different noise reduction ratings (NRR). You should choose hearing protection devices that fit well and are comfortable to wear. You should also keep them clean and replace them when they are worn out or damaged.
Hearing loss prevention is important for everyone, regardless of age or occupation. By protecting your hearing from loud noise, you can preserve your ability to hear and enjoy the sounds of life.