Latest posts by Dr. Kevin H. Ivory, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)
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Hearing is an important part of our lives, yet many of us perform daily tasks or work in occupations that put our hearing at risk. In order to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, it’s important to obtain proper ear protection and learn how to use it correctly.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be more acute based on the amount of exposure time, the average sound level, and the peak level of very loud sounds. Exposure to excessive noise from industrial machinery, heavy construction equipment and vehicles, power tools, aircraft, gunfire, motorcycle and auto race tracks, dental drills, sporting events, fireworks, rock concerts, marching bands, and music from a player’s own instrument or nearby instruments can cause hearing loss depending on the intensity and duration of the noise. At work or during leisure time it is important to always protect your hearing
Understanding Hearing Damage
How loud does the noise need to be to damage a person’s hearing? Hearing loss can occur when exposed to 85 decibels of noise averaged over 8 hours. Let’s put this in perspective. Normal conversations typically occur at 60 decibels, well below the hearing loss threshold. Remember those headphones used as speakers? That music was probably playing at full volume, which can often register as 105 decibels. Here’s the thing, though. For every 3-decibel increase past 85 decibels, hearing loss can occur in half the amount of time. So, it only takes 4 hours of exposure to 88 decibels for hearing loss to occur, and 2 hours of exposure to 91 decibels. Once noise levels exceed 100 decibels, a person can suffer hearing damage in as little as 15 minutes. The louder the noise, the faster hearing loss occurs.
The Importance Choosing the Right Hearing Protection
To choose the right hearing protection for your needs it is important to understand the noise levels that you work and live in. It is recommended that one endures no more than 8 hours of exposure to noise levels of around 80dB. Therefore, understanding the level of noise you are exposed to is important.
Often it is possible to find out from manufacturer specs how many decibels of noise a piece of equipment produces, though other environmental factors, such as the general environment (indoor, outdoor, types of walls, etc.) can affect the actual decibel level experienced by those in proximity to the machinery or work being conducted. A sound meter can be used to get an accurate reading of environmental sound levels and there are some smart phone apps available that can also give a general idea of the ambient sound level.
Disposable earplugs are typically made out of foam and are effective for single usage. They’re comfortable, but don’t offer the utmost protection in very noisy environments.
These plugs are pre-formed for the ear canal, washable, and made for multiple uses (although fewer than custom hearing protection). While as effective as the disposable plugs, they cost a bit more and will have to be replaced after a certain number of uses.
Earmuffs go completely over the ears, which can be more comfortable if you don’t like having something inside your ear canal. While they fit everyone, one major downside is that they usually have a lower Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) because they don’t seal your ear canal.
Custom hearing protection
Custom hearing protection options are molded to fit your ears exactly and made to provide effective protection for specific situations, such as when swimming, hunting, or in the workplace. They last several years, and are highly recommended by hearing care professionals for effective protection. Because they are made using a mold of your unique ear canal, they create the perfect seal to prevent noise or water damage.
Glendora Hearing Aids
It is important to protect your hearing while and when you can, because once your ears are damaged by noise related hearing, they can never recover. Contact us at Glendora Hearing Aids to find out more about hearing protection and to find out how well you can currently hear. It is recommended that hearing tests are conducted once a year. Schedule your appointment today.