Although hearing loss comes in many forms and arises from many causes, there are two that stand beyond the rest. The two most common forms of hearing loss are age-related loss, otherwise known as presbycusis, and noise-induced hearing loss. In the first case, there is little that we know can prevent the condition. In the second case, though, limiting your exposure to noise is a powerful tool you can use to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Although you might want to prevent this form of hearing loss, how can you do so? The first step is to assess the common situations in your life that are exposing you to loud sound. Let’s take a closer look at noise-induced hearing loss, including the way it works in the structure of the ears and the ways you can prevent it from occurring. You will want to monitor your daily exposure to noise to keep your hearing ability as long as possible, and these are a few simple ways to do so.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss does not only occur as a result of an explosion, car accident, or gunshot. Indeed, these very loud sounds are sufficient to cause damage to your hearing in an instant, but they are not the only way that noise-induced hearing loss can occur. In reality, this form of hearing loss comes from a combination of volume, measured in decibels, and duration, measured in hours and minutes. At the baseline, a person can endure sound at a volume of 85 decibels for about 8 hours without damage. For each additional 3 decibels of sound, that time is cut in half. For example, you can endure a volume of 88 decibels for only 4 hours, and so on. With this simple equation in mind, you will notice that louder sounds can only be endured for a few minutes without causing hearing loss. If you work in an environment that has somewhat loud sound, you might not even notice that it is a dangerous source of noise. However, a full working shift might be sufficient to cause hearing loss, particularly when it happens day after day.
Monitoring and Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
If you are concerned about the level of noise you experience in your daily life, you can take some proactive steps to monitor your exposure. Free apps are available for your smartphone that do a pretty good job capturing the decibel level of a space at the location of the microphone. Take care to place your phone at roughly the location where you work. You will want to take several readings to get a good average for a particular part of the day or work process. This number will help you understand how long you can work, unprotected, in a given location. If the volume level is averaging 88 decibels, then you can only stay in that location for 4 hours without risking hearing damage. What can you do if you find that this is the case? The first step is to report this situation to your manager. Your place of employment is required by law to ensure the protection of your hearing. Whether or not you get a helpful response from your manager, you can take steps to protect your hearing at work. Earplugs are a simple tool to bring down the average volume of noise-exposure through the day. Most simple, disposable foam earplugs reduce the effective volume level by at least 10-15 decibels. That reduction might be enough to make it possible to work safely in that environment for a full shift. If you are still concerned about your hearing in your daily life, more advanced protection is available, as well. For instance, those who work in very loud locations, such as an air field or industrial site, might need to wear noise-cancelling earmuffs or a combination of different types of protection. Most importantly, you need to take responsibility for your own hearing health. Although you might be tempted to put the blame on your employer or the situation of your daily life, you can get serious about wearing hearing protection, making it possible to avoid noise-induced hearing protection in these everyday situations.