October is National Hearing Protection month, a wonderful opportunity to educate people on how to better protect one of our vital senses. It is estimated that more than 80% of adults don’t protect their hearing at loud events, even though 1/6 of adults have hearing loss. Our hearing isn’t something we tend to think about until it’s not working, at which point it can’t be recovered. This is why hearing protection is so important.
Loud sounds can harm the small delicate hairs in the inner ear. Once damaged, they no longer respond to sounds and can’t be fixed or replaced. This damage can slowly accumulate over time, meaning that hearing loss may not be noticed until quite a bit of impairment has already been done.
So what can you do? First of all, it’s important to be aware of what sounds are too loud. There are apps you can download to check the decibel level of places you spend a lot of time, such as your work. This way you can monitor where and when you may need to use hearing protection. Any sounds at or above 85 decibels are too loud and have the potential to permanently damage your hearing. The louder the sound, the shorter time is needed to cause permanent damage.
If your ears hurt while listening to loud noise or ring/buzz during the noise or after it’s gone, this means it is too loud. Another way to check is to note if you have to speak loudly or yell at someone when they are only an arm’s length away from you, or if you have trouble hearing someone else at that distance.
Common activities that are too loud include mowing the lawn, using a leaf or snow blower, shooting firearms, using tools like drills or jackhammers, setting off firecrackers, and using farm equipment.
To protect your hearing you can use the 60/60 rule. Listen to your music at 60% for no more than 60 minutes without a break. Make sure that where you can, turn down loud noises or move away from them so you are further away from the source of the noise. When these options aren’t possible, it’s time to use earplugs or earmuffs. These are available online or at hardware stores. Earplugs are more discreet and often less expensive, but make sure you know how to properly insert them. Earmuffs are a better option for children, and are easier to use.
It’s easy to take our hearing for granted when there is no existing issue, but hearing loss isn’t reversible. Taking care of your ears and protecting your hearing is important and easy! This October, take the time to learn a bit about hearing protection, share with your friends and family, and help everyone prevent hearing loss!