Nearly 30 million Americans 12 and older have some level of impaired hearing. Among American 45 and older, hearing impairment is a chronic condition and can lead to social isolation, functional decline and even depression. Unfortunately, hearing loss is something we cannot avoid. Factors besides aging can affect our hearing including ear infection or injury, head injury, genetics and most of all, exposure to loud noises.
Fortunately, the major cause of impaired hearing, exposure to load noises can be prevented. Noise created hearing loss is becoming much more common as noise becomes louder in all aspects of our lives, at home, work and in recreational activities.
Sound is measured in decibels and the higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. For example: conversational speech is around 45-50 decibels; city traffic is about 80; a leaf blower or power saw is 110; a jet engine is 140 and a loud car stereo is 145 decibels. Professional sports stadiums can reach 140 decibels during a game or concert.
As sound gets louder, our ears tolerate it less and less. The louder the sound, the less time it takes to damage our hearing. Hearing damage can begin to occur around 85 decibels depending on the duration of your exposure. Even a single blast of sound at a very high decibel can cause permanent damage. Unless you protect yourself, loud noises gradually destroy the nerve ending in the inner ear resulting in permanent damage that cannot be medically or surgically reversed. Remedies for hearing loss include hearing aids or a cochlear implant – an electronic device that is surgically placed into the inner ear.
The best way to protect yourself from hearing loss is prevention. If you are exposed to loud noises at work or play, use hearing protection such as earmuffs or foam earplugs. These are inexpensive, small and easy to use. If you’re 55 years or older, you should have a comprehensive hearing test on a regular basis. Protecting your hearing is up to you!