NOISE POLLUTION AND HEARING HEALTH

December 17, 2018

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noise dB meter
 

Dr. Darcy Benson

Dr. Benson completed her audiology fellowship at the California Ear Institute, Palo Alto, CA, and received her Doctor of Audiology degree at Salus University, Osborne School of Audiology, Elkins Park, PA. Prior to that, she received her Master of Science degree in Communication Disorders from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, and her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.
Dr. Darcy Benson

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There is noise pollution everywhere we go: there are even “noise-cancelling” features in our earbuds and headphones that filter out background noises for us. If we are exposed to unwanted noises for too long, it can be very irritating. No matter what the noise pollution: airplanes overhead or traffic from a nearby road, a dog barking or a lawnmower in a neighbor’s yard– noise pollution is ubiquitous.

Filtering Noise Pollution

With all of the noise surrounding us, it’s no wonder we have different ways to filter it. Our “noise filters” help us block unwanted noise and hear the sounds we do want to hear. Noise pollution is all of the unwanted sound.

Noise pollution can be made up of every-day sounds, and even some of the sounds we want to hear can pose a risk to hearing health. Stereo systems at concerts, movie theaters, sporting events, or even home speakers or ear buds can expose your ears to sounds so loud they can damage your hearing. We like to attend social gatherings and places like bars, concerts, or fireworks shows, but they can increase risk of hearing damage the most.

Hearing Damage

Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by exposure to noises over 80 decibels. This hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Loud, short bursts of noises, like a gunshot or an airplane overhead, can hurt our ears and can cause hearing damage right away.

Even everyday noises we don’t think much about can affect our hearing health. Examples of these noises are lawnmowers (about 90 decibels) and vacuum cleaners (about 70 decibels) By comparison, a normal conversation may be about 60 decibels.

Noise pollution can actually affect our entire bodies. A loud noise such as a bang can disturb digestion, alter your heartbeat and disrupt breathing patterns. Constant exposure to a loud noise can cause crankiness and make it difficult to sleep. Noise can even impact your blood pressure.

After attending a very noisy event like a fireworks show, you may experience a ringing sound in your ears. This ringing is tinnitus, and it can last just a few minutes or even a few days. Permanent hearing loss can result if there are several episodes of tinnitus. Age related hearing loss is due in part to this cumulative effect of hearing damage over a lifetime.

Be Proactive

Fortunately, we can be pro-active to prevent hearing damage by protecting ourselves from noise pollution. This will help to make sure we maintain good hearing even into our older years. Limiting exposure to loud noises is of course one of the best ways to prevent hearing loss. There are a lot of noises we control, like our own stereo systems when we watch movies or listen to music at home. When you are on the go, you can still listen to music but make a switch to over-the-ear headphones instead of earbuds, which are more likely to damage hearing.

When we have plans to attend a very loud event, do your best to avoid the noisiest spots, or even bring ear plugs. If there are loud noises outside such as construction work or a lawnmower, close the windows until the noise subsides.

Noise-canceling headphones allow us to enjoy music at lower volumes, without having to compete with the noises outside of the headphones. That can help to protect hearing for the future as well.

By taking small, easy steps to protect your hearing on a daily basis, you can work to prevent hearing damage as you get older.

If you suspect hearing loss, whatever the cause, visit your audiologist to take action. You may find a resolution that can inhibit or stop the development of hearing damage.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.