Noise-induced hearing loss

Next-Gen Hearing Protection: Because Your Hearing Is Worth It

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Approximately 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-69 have hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises. We understand many people avoid wearing hearing protection because it blocks out the wanted noise along with the unwanted noise. What most people don't realize is that today's generation of hearing protection actually enhances low-level sounds (like conversations), while minimizing the loud sounds that create noise-induced hearing loss. This means if you're working in a noisy environment or attending a concert, you can carry on conversations with colleagues and friends comfortably at the same time you're protecting your hearing from the unwanted noises. 

Who Should Wear Hearing Protection?

There are varying recommendations based on the noise level (decibel) and the time exposed. The chart below by Westone explains when ear protection is needed. Certain professions, including factory workers, construction workers, musicians, and mechanics, require hearing protection more than others. For noisy experiences and hobbies, such as concerts, hunting, and riding motorcycles, you should wear hearing protection, as well. If you're ever in a situation where your hearing is muffled or you hear ringing or buzzing following the experience, that's also a tell tale sign that you're damaging your hearing.

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Types of Hearing Protection Available

We offer many types of hearing protection at various price points depending on your needs and situation. We offer high-end, in-ear musician monitors with multiple drivers for the professional musicians. We offer custom hearing protection devices that offer the ability to adjust the volume for those who need protection on the job. And, we offer recreational ear plugs for situations like loud movies, concerts, and sporting events. 

Please don't hesitate to call us if you feel you are a good candidate for hearing protection. We do not charge for this initial consultation. 

Hearing Loss Rising Among Teens

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Earlier this month, a Washington Post column referenced this American Osteopathic Association article stating, "1 in 5 teens has some form of hearing loss - a rate about 30% higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s - which many experts believe is due, in part, to the increased use of headphones." That's a number that might come as a surprise to many parents. It might also come as a surprise that noise - not age - is the number one cause of hearing loss.

Think of hearing loss as sun damage - although you don't notice it in the moment, exposure to loud noises over time can result in irreparable damage for the rest of your life. Kids are being exposed to loud noises from electronic media, concerts, movies, and more at earlier ages, now. Sarah Sydlowski, the audiology director of the hearing implant program at the Cleveland Clinic stated, “The baby boomer generation is dealing with skin cancer from the tanning they did as teens. This generation will have to deal with the consequences of noise exposure that damaged their hearing.”

What Can Parents Do?

1. Test for Hearing Loss - Get your kids screened by an audiologist or physician. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for high-frequency hearing, a telltale sign of noise-induced hearing loss, at three ages:

  • 11-14 years
  • 15-17 years
  • 18-21 years

2. Enforce Safe Listening Habits - A good rule of thumb for parents is if you can hear noise from your child's headphones/earbuds, then it's too loud. Volume above 50-60% on personal listening devices while wearing headphones and earbuds is risky. Kids also should be able to hear conversations taking place while listening, and they should take breaks every hour.

3. Protect Your Ears - Kids (and adults) should wear ear protection when being exposed to loud noises, such as concerts, movies and mowing the lawn. We've identified common sounds and decibels that warrant hearing protection in our post titled, "Protect Your Ears from Loud Summer Sounds."

Hearing loss has been linked to poor school performance, social isolation, feelings of depression and anxiety, reduced language development, and low self esteem. Although we agree as parents that our children don't always "listen" to us, as audiologists, we recommend a hearing screening to rule out a legitimate hearing loss. Contact us for a complimentary screening. 

Additional Reading for Parents with Young Children

Child Health Day: Early Signs of Hearing Loss

It's Noisy Out There: Protect Your Hearing

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. As audiologists, we see the effects that noise has on our patients' hearing on a weekly, if not daily, basis. It's not just our patients: approximately 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-69 have hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises. 

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in our inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back, causing permanent hearing loss. 

How Loud is Too Loud?

The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 dB, or by a one-time, intense exposure to a noise like an explosion. ƒTo give you some perspective:

  • Normal conversations are around 60dB.
  • Hair dryers and blenders are 90dB.
  • Concerts, car racing and sporting events are 110 dB
  • Ambulance, police and fire sirens are 130 dB.
  • Gunshots and fireworks are 140 dB.

A good rule of thumb is that if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone an arm's length away, the surrounding noise is too loud. If you hear ringing, buzzing or experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work or a concert, the noise is too loud. Parents - if you can hear sounds from your child's headphones or earbuds while standing next to them, the volume is too loud.

Occupational Hazards

The risk for noise-induced hearing loss is especially high among factory workers, transportation workers, military personnel, construction workers, musicians and entertainers, those who work frequently with heavy machinery, and first responders. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers implement a Hearing Conservation Program if workers are exposed to an average noise level of 85 dB or higher over an 8-hour work period. According to OSHA, Hearing Conservation Programs require employers to measure noise levels, provide free annual hearing exams, free hearing protection, provide training, and conduct evaluations of the adequacy of the hearing protectors in use unless changes to tools, equipment and schedules are made less noisy and/or worker exposure to noise is less than the 85 dBA.

Hearing Protection Solutions

If you are attending a sporting event, concert, parade, fireworks show, or any other type of event, you should always pack a set of earplugs that can be purchased at your local pharmacy. This is especially true for children. 

For people who are exposed to loud noises on a daily basis, we offer custom-molded earplugs, made from medical-grade silicone. Our earplugs offer a level of comfort and protection that you won't find in standard, generic earplugs. These earplugs are vented to allow sound to pass both ways, so you don't get that "plugged up" feeling. 

If you're often having to speak over the noise in your work or leisure environments, call us for a hearing protection consultation.