If you don't work in environments such as race tracks, airports, or in a heavy industrial setting, you may think that you have few risk factors for compromising your ability to hear. However, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), sounds above 85 decibels over a period of 8 hours or louder sounds over shorter time periods can cause hearing loss.
There are many other sources of exposure to sounds that exceed a level that is considered safe for your hearing. These include the following areas that you may encounter on a daily basis.
On the road
There are sounds that you encounter while driving than can cause hearing loss both over an extended period and within several seconds of exposure.
They can reach 120 decibels and damage hearing in less than a minute of exposure.
Many car horns have sound levels over 100 decibels, and can cause hearing loss after 15 minutes of repeated exposure.
Damage can occur after 1 hour of exposure to standard motorcycle noise. Motorcycles that are modified to create a higher decibel sound from their muffler increase the risk exponentially according to the level of modification.
The area outside your home presents the greatest danger to your hearing because of the use of power equipment such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers at 90 or more decibels. If you use this type of equipment for a few hours without protective equipment, you will sustain cumulative hearing loss.
However, indoor activities are starting to compete with these activities for hearing loss risks. Music and entertainment audio equipment can reach a level of 105 decibels, which can cause hearing loss in less than 5 minutes (that is per occurrence, not counting the cumulative effects of years of listening to loud music).
Food processors, blenders, and blow dryers all reach sustained levels of up to 90 decibels, which can cause gradual hearing loss over an extended period of regular use.
How can you prevent hearing loss?
If you're protecting your hearing from loud yard work, you can buy headphones that block all sound above 82 decibels. Some of these headphones are equipped with bluetooth compatibility, audio cords for headphone jacks to cell phones, and AM/FM radios. Both outside noise and the music source is muted to remain below the safe 82 decibel maximum level.
You can also use earplugs that range from simple foam inserts to advanced protection that mutes sounds across the audio spectrum, so you experience all sound at a muted level. This is essential for musicians who need hearing protection but can't have higher decibel sounds made completely inaccessible or distorted.
What can you do if you suspect that you have hearing loss?
You must get your hearing tested to determine the nature and extent of the damage to your hearing. Some hearing losses affect all aspects of your hearing, while others may just limit various facets. If the loss is profound, or simply lowers your quality of life, you can choose from a wide selection of hearing aids.
Many hearing aids are nearly imperceptible to other people and can allow you to reconnect to all of the wondrous sounds that slipped away over many years of gradual hearing loss. Social interaction will become much easier when you can actually hear and distinguish voices without asking people to repeat themselves.
There are drawbacks, of course. You can no longer use the excuse that you didn't hear your significant other ask you to perform some task that you didn't want to do. However, it's a small price to pay to hear the birds sing in the morning outside your window.
Contact a group like Melnick, Moffitt & Mesaros ENT Associates to learn more.