May is Better Speech and Hearing Month, so to raise awareness we’re giving you 6 ways you can protect your ears from hearing loss. For some, hearing loss is out of their control. However, according to the Better Hearing Institute, 30 million Americans are exposed to hazardous noise levels daily, and 10 million have already succumbed to irreversible hearing damage from noise. Your hearing can be damaged gradually over time from repeated exposure to loud noises, or you can instantly damage your hearing from being too close to a shotgun blast, or fireworks.
People who spend a lot of time in a noisy place, such as machinery operators, or those that listen to loud music frequently are at risk of hearing loss. People that experience loud noises regularly may be gradually losing their hearing and not even know it. Having a noisy job used to be the most common cause of hearing problems, but rules and regulations were increased to help protect our workers. Now, the main issue is recreational loud noise. Listening to loud music often or going to noisy clubs or concerts regularly puts you at risk for irreversible hearing loss.
How loud is too loud?
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB) and the higher the number of decibels, the louder the noise. Noise levels surpassing about 100dB will start damaging hearing if experienced for more than 15 minutes each week. Even lower noise levels between 80-90dB can still cause damage if you are exposed to them for hours daily.
|Noise source||Decibel Level (dB)|
|Whisper; rustling leaves||20|
|Quiet rural area||30|
|Library; bird calls||40|
|Conversation at home||50|
|Office; Conversation in restaurant||60|
|Garbage disposal; food blender||80|
|Live rock music||110|
|Military jet takeoff from 50 ft.||130|
|Jet takeoff from 25 ft.||150|
|12-gauge shotgun blast||165|
In general, 70dB is used as a base of comparison, as it is considered a non-hazardous level of noise. If you are exposed to levels of 100dB for hours, serious damage is likely. At 120dB, noise levels are 32 times as loud as 70d, and it is also the average threshold of human pain. At 150dB, your eardrum will rupture.
You risk of hearing loss caused by noise is based on how loud the noise is, and how long you endure it for. If you experience ringing in your ears or dulled hearing after listening to your music, your music is too loud. Even if you don’t experience these symptoms, you could still experience damage to your hearing. A rule of thumb is that if you can’t talk to someone within 2 meters of you without shouting, the noise level is probably damaging.
6 tips to protect your ears from noise hearing loss
1. Avoid extended exposure to loud noises
It’s not always easy to avoid loud noises, especially if you work with loud equipment or attend loud events such as concerts. But limiting your exposure is key to protecting your hearing. Give your ears a break if possible and leave areas of loud noise for about 10 minutes.
2. Wear hearing Protection
If you know that you’re going to be exposed to loud noises for an extended period of time, consider wearing earplugs or earmuffs. Earplugs are usually made of foam or rubber and are inserted into the ear canal. They can reduce noise levels by 15-30dB. Earmuffs fit completely over your ears and also have the ability to reduce noise levels by 15-30dB.
3. Wear noise-cancelling headphones
When listening to music on your own personal device, use noise-cancelling headphones. This will block out surrounding noises so that you can listen to your music at a lower volume.
4. Get regular hearing check-ups
By getting regular checkups, you can avoid causing more permanent damage to your ears because you didn’t think it was that serious. Audiologists can recognize hearing problems and will be able to help you find hearing aids, assistive listening devices or help you make lifestyle changes to protect you from hearing loss.
5. Turn down the volume
According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion teens and young adults are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss due to listening to personal audio devices at an unsafe level. Follow the 60/60 rule: listen with headphone at 60% of max volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
6. Give your ears recovery time
After you have been exposed to loud noises for an extended period of time, give your ears time to rest. It is suggested to let your ears rest for at least 16 hours after a loud night out at a club or concert venue.