NOISE POLLUTION AND HEARING HEALTH

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.

EAR BUDS MAY LEAD TO HEARING LOSS But it Can Be Avoided!

Ear buds and headphones are a great way to have your own personalized entertainment experience wherever you go. Whether you like to listen to music or watch your favorite video content on your phone, ear buds are necessary to listen to audio in a public setting.

Since ear buds are speakers inside of your ear canal, however, they can cause hearing damage, even without us realizing it. Irreversible hearing loss can result from loud noises, and if the volume goes too high for too long, you could be at risk for hearing damage. Studies have shown that as many as 1 in 5 young people may already suffer from hearing damage, because of the ubiquitous and constant use of ear buds.

Noise-induced hearing loss can occur in one of two ways: from a sudden, loud noise such as an explosion, or from ongoing exposure, such as working in a factory setting or constantly listening to loud music.

When ear buds rest in your ear canal, the sound effect can be boosted by up to 9 decibels. Since 85 decibels is the threshold for hearing damage, this extra 9 decibels may just push the sound over that limit and begin to damage your hearing.

None of this is to say that you should never wear ear buds or head phones. Here are a few suggestions to minimize damage and prevent noise-induced hearing loss from your ear buds:

  • Custom ear buds can be made that fit your ear canal perfectly. This serves to effectively block out outside noise, so you don’t feel the need to increase the volume in noisy environments.
  • Earbuds that fit tightly into your ear canal can serve the same purpose as custom earbuds by sealing into your ear and blocking background noise.
  • Use the 60/60 rule: always keep the volume under 60% and try not to use them for more than 60 minutes per day.
  • Wear “ear-muff” style headphones instead of ear buds.
  • Alert young people in your life of this information; since hearing damage is irreversible, education is important.

With just a little bit of effort, you can preserve your hearing and still enjoy personal entertainment wherever you go.

Since hearing loss can progress slowly, annual hearing screenings are crucial. We may not notice these gradual changes in hearing ability on our own until damage is done.

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