Protecting Your Precious Hearing

Did you get a mailshot in the past month or so about a “miracle” hearing aid? You shouldn’t be surprised. Most of us get them, and here’s the reason: One out of every 10 Americans has a hearing loss that affects his or her ability to understanding normal speech.

When you think that the vast majority of these are adults and that another huge additional proportion of people have less significant hearing damage, you start to get a picture of how serious an issue it is – and why so many companies sell hearing aids!

But the fact is there’s a lot we can and should be doing right now to protect our hearing, both in the workplace and elsewhere. There are two key actions:

Lower the Volume:

We live in a noisy world but we make things worse for ourselves by setting the volume too high on our portable and home music players. Likewise, attending noisy rock concerts has been shown to cause permanent hearing damage. Maybe you still want to go but you should know the risks and try to avoid sitting too close to amplified speakers.

Wear Hearing Protection:

30 million Americans are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace. Add to that the noise we generate at home running motors, in the yard, in the workshop or indoors. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), you should wear hearing protectors in a noisy workplace or when using power tools, yard equipment or firearms – or when riding a motorcycle or snowmobile.

There are two main types of hearing protector: earplugs you insert into the outer ear canal, which must be sealed snugly; and earmuffs that fit over the entire ear.

How Much is Too Much?

The AAO says continual exposure to noise above 85 decibels (dB) is dangerous. As a guide, normal conversation takes place at about 60dB, a lawnmower or truck traffic is about 90dB. A rock concert will pump out 115dB and a gun blast or jet engine fires out about 150dB.

Is Your Hearing Damaged?

How can you tell if your hearing is damaged?

Well you may suffer ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus (see below) or simply have difficulty understanding what people say. In either case, you should seek professional advice and arrange a hearing test.

It may be only a temporary problem, such as that caused by ear wax or an ear infections, but these still require professional advice and treatment.