What Can You Do to Prevent Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss isn’t a rare or benign condition: it is something that affects millions of people across the country. It can have a profound impact on your quality of life. Those who are hard of hearing can find it hard to hold a conversation or take in important information at work.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways that you can prevent hearing loss. Here’s what to do.
Avoid listening to music on loud headphones
Listening to loud music through headphones is the most significant contributing factor to hearing loss, besides aging. Sound waves from headphones travel through the eardrum and damage the sensitive sound-sensing hairs that line the middle ear. Over time, they become less able to pick up vibrations and send signals to the brain for processing, making it difficult to detect the audible world around you.
The best way to stop this from happening is to listen to music at a lower volume. Evolutionarily, our ears never developed to cope with prolonged exposure to loud noises. Our human ancestors would have heard the occasional crack of thunder, but aside from that, there were very few loud noises in the environment. There were certainly no everyday loud noises that persisted for hours at a time.
If loud noises get in the way of your enjoyment of music, try using noise-canceling headphones. These devices emit soundwaves that neutralize incoming sounds, allowing you to listen to music on quieter volume.
Get your hearing tested regularly
You might think that getting your hearing tested is something you do after you already have the condition. How can it help prevent hearing loss?
As with most conditions, the earlier you intervene, the better. Audiograms are highly sensitive. They can tell you whether you’re in the early stages of hearing loss, providing the audiologist with an opportunity to provide treatment. Fitting a hearing aid in the first few months or years of hearing loss can help to slow down the progress of the condition by providing the brain with more stimulation. The more sound signals that it has to process, the less it atrophies over time.
Wear earmuffs at loud concerts
Concerts can be loud. The average sound level at a rock show is often well above 100 dB. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to noises above 85 dB can begin to damage the ears, so this noise level is a problem.
Fortunately, you can protect your ears from incoming sounds using noise-abatement technology. Earmuffs and earplugs create a barrier between the noise coming from the speakers and your inner ear, taking energy out of the sound waves.
Just be careful, though, when selecting ear protection products. Most offer somewhere between 15-30dB of noise mitigation. So, for instance, if you buy earplugs rated 20dB, then a 100dB noise will sound more like eighty.
If a rock concert is louder than 115 dB, then no amount of ear protection is safe, and you’re probably best off not going. Earmuffs and earplugs aren’t failsafe.
Speak to your boss about workplace noises
For many people, the workplace is the most significant risk factor for hearing loss. Loud noises include things like the sound of a jackhammer or a jet engine on the runway.
People who work in these environments should discuss sound abatement with their employers. Often, managers and bosses will provide ear protection or allow you to wear it on the job when it is safe to do so. Many are under regulatory requirements to provide workers with protection in certain lines of work.
You can also recommend that your company switch to using quieter equipment. Today’s manufacturers now provide a range of machinery that doesn’t produce as much noise when in operation.
Learn to recognize situations that are too loud
Knowing if you’re in an environment that is too loud is easier than you think.
In general, it is probably too loud if you have to raise your voice to get people to hear you or you can’t listen to what people nearby are saying.
If you have a muffled or ringing noise in your ears afterward, that’s also a sign that things were too loud.
Preventing hearing loss is vital for your long-term quality of life. People with the condition can experience problems at work, issues with their relationships, depression, and social isolation.
If you’d like to learn more about preventing hearing loss, please get in touch with Atlantic Audiology today at (401) 262-0170. With us, you can get a full hearing test and strategies to protect your ears from damage.