Globally, it is estimated that one in five people suffer from hearing loss. In the U.S alone, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition, ranked just after high blood pressure and arthritis. Hearing loss impacts people of all ages, and much of hearing loss is preventable, even when you already have some noticeable loss.
Preventing hearing loss focuses on reducing your exposure to noise. Sometimes this is easy to do. Other times – such as if you are randomly near a loud car that backfires – it is impossible to protect your ears from damage. Just do your best to manage your exposure and take breaks from the noisy environment whenever possible.
Preventing Hearing Loss Starts Early
Since most hearing loss is permanent and worsens over time, it is important to prevent damage before it occurs. If you like to spend time in loud environments with loud music, such as a gym or somewhere with live music, always wear ear plugs. Even doing chores around that house, such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming and using certain kitchen appliances expose your ears to loud noises. Although custom-made hearing protection is the best, the foam kind, that are often given away at concerts or in some gyms, are worth the effort!
If you enjoy loud-sound hobbies, such as being on an ATV, hunting or even being near a loud engine, consider getting ear plugs that are molded to your ear. These are professionally tailored to your ears and will give you the best protection and are especially important for hunters. Make an appointment today to get fitted and discuss options.
Many people enjoy driving with the windows down. If you are listening to music and find you need to turn the volume up to compete with the noise of the wind, remember that you could be exposing your ears to dangerously loud music. If your brain says “this is loud enough” with the windows closed, keep in mind that when you open the window, your ears are exposed to the double burden of wind and even louder music.
Preventing Hearing Loss at the Workplace
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 22 million Americans have hearing loss. Work-related hearing loss across is found in every industry sector and in people of all ages.
The US Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a plethora of information on hearing loss in the workplace. This includes a Hearing Conservation Program. Companies can take steps to lower noise in the workplace, such as operating the noisiest machines when the fewest people are working. They can also provide noise-canceling hearing protection (and regulations may require them to do so).
Wear Hearing Protection Consistently
You can do your part by following your company’s guidelines regarding using hearing protection. Always wear hearing protection when you are exposed to excessive noise. Even if you are used to the noise, remember that your brain has become accustomed to hearing the extra sound, and that does not mean that the noise isn’t damaging your hearing.
In some environments that are noisy (such as an elementary school or restaurant/bar), you may not be able to wear ear plugs or other protective devices. You may have to combine needing to communicate with people (such as hearing children or hearing an order if you are a waiter) with needing to protect your hearing. If you can’t wear protection, make sure that when you have a lunch break or other personal time, you spend that time in a quiet environment to give your ears a break.
Preventing Hearing Loss from Getting Worse
If you have hearing loss, it is very important to have your hearing checked regularly, to determine if it is getting worse. It’s possible that you may only have mild loss that doesn’t need any treatment. But, like your vision, it is important to follow your hearing health regularly.
Prior to your appointment, you can also use our online self assessment to get an idea of your hearing capabilities.
If you have a treatable loss, make sure you wear your hearing aids consistently. This will help decrease the chances of cognitive decline (among other health risks). You can also put others at risk around you when you don’t wear your hearing aids. For example, you may be tempted to turn up the volume on the TV or radio to dangerous levels. This may not just damage your hearing, but impact those who are nearby.
What are the Signs of Hearing Loss?
Friends and family may pick up on hearing loss before the sufferer themselves. Many patients report their loved ones having to repeat themselves on the phone or in person, or that devices such as TVs and telephones are turned up too loud. People with hearing may also notice ringing in the ears (known as tinnitus), not knowing where sound is coming from (called localization), or simply hearing speech but having trouble understanding speech clearly.
Who Is at Risk of Hurting Their Hearing?
As a general rule, every hearing person is at risk of hearing loss. Those most at risk include employees who work in loud environments such as manufacturing plants, nightclubs or bars, construction workers, and any person who spends extended periods of time in loud environments where the noise level exceeds 85dB.
To measure the noise levels at your place of work, consider downloading a smart phone app and testing the environment for noise throughout the day. The CDC recommends the NIOSH Sound Level Meter app.
Get Started with a Professional Assessment
At Empire Hearing, we pride ourselves in offering compassionate hearing care from experienced professionals who specialize in creating kind environments for hearing people of all ages. Learn more about our services by scheduling an appointment with one of our highly trained hearing care professionals.