The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion individuals are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, caused by exposure to excessive sound levels from personal mp3 devices and noisy environments such as clubs, bars, concerts, and sporting events. An projected 26 million Americans currently suffer from the condition.
If noise-induced hearing loss results from direct exposure to intense sound levels, then what is deemed as excessive? It turns out that any sound over 85 decibels is potentially damaging, and regretfully, many of our day-to-day activities expose us to sounds well above this threshold. An mp3 music player at maximum volume, for example, hits 105 decibels, and law enforcement sirens can reach 130.
So is hearing loss an inescapable consequence of our over-amplified life? Not if you make the right choices, because it also happens that noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.
Here are six ways you can save your hearing:
1. Use custom earplugs
The top way to prevent hearing loss is to stay away from loud noise entirely. Of course, for most people that would entail abandoning their jobs and dropping their plans to see their favorite band perform live in concert.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to live like a hermit to keep your hearing. If you’re subjected to loud noise at work, or if you plan on going to a live performance, instead of avoiding the noise you can reduce its volume with earplugs. One alternative is to buy a cheap pair of foam earplugs at the convenience store, understanding that they will likely create muffled sound. There is a better option.
Today, a variety of custom earplugs are obtainable that fit comfortably in the ear. Custom earplugs are formed to the curves of your ear for maximum comfort, and they incorporate advanced electronics that reduce sound volume evenly across frequencies so that music and speech can be perceived clearly and naturally. Talk to your local hearing specialist for additional information.
2. Maintain a safe distance from the sound source
The inverse square law, as applied to sound, shows that as you double the distance from the source of sound the strength of the sound falls by 75%. This law of physics might possibly save your hearing at a rock concert; instead of standing in the front row adjacent to the speaker system, increase your distance as much as possible, balancing the benefits of a good view against a safe distance.
3. Take rest breaks for your ears
Hearing injury from subjection to loud sound is influenced by on three factors:
- the sound level or intensity
- your distance from the sound source
- the amount of time you’re exposed to the sound
You can lower the intensity of sound with earplugs, you can increase your distance from the sound source, and you can also minimize your collective exposure time by taking rest breaks from the sound. If you’re at a concert or in a recording studio, for instance, make sure to give your ears routine breaks and time to recover.
4. Turn down the music – follow the 60/60 rule
If you regularly listen to music from a portable music player, ensure that you maintain the volume no higher that 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes each day. Higher volume and longer listening times multiply the risk of irreversible damage.
5. Purchase noise-canceling headphones
The 60/60 rule is difficult, if not impossible to follow in certain listening circumstances. In the presence of disruptive background noise, like in a busy city, you have to turn up the volume on your MP3 player to hear the music over the surrounding noise.
The resolution? Noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones will filter ambient sounds so that you can enjoy your music without breaching the 60/60 rule.
6. Arrange for regular hearing exams
It’s never too soon or too late to set up a hearing examination. Together with being able to diagnose existing hearing loss, a hearing test can also establish a baseline for future comparison.
Because hearing loss develops gradually, it is difficult to notice. For most people, the only way to know if hearing loss is present is to have a professional hearing examination. But you shouldn’t wait until after the harm is done to schedule an appointment; prevention is the best medicine, and your local hearing specialist can supply tailored hearing protection solutions so that you can avoid hearing loss altogether.