Exposure to excessive noise levels (greater than 85 decibels) during work or other activities can significantly increase your risk of hearing loss, or exacerbate an existing hearing impairment. Going without hearing protection in the face of harmful noise levels is likely to create problems down the road, when the damaging effects on the delicate hair cells of the cochlea — the inner-ear organ that relays sound signals to the brain — begin to surface.
Concerts, sporting events, hunting, ATV riding, running power tools, or simply listening to music too loudly can all irreparably damage hearing. At times, these noise levels can reach 110 decibels (dB) or more, which puts your hearing at risk in a matter of minutes. Some sounds can damage hearing instantaneously. A shotgun blast at close range without protection can exceed 150 dB, permanently damaging your hearing in one single, fleeting moment.
Repeated noise exposure early in life can be compounded as you get older. Since the hair cells in your inner ear never regenerate, your hearing is unlikely to get any better on its own after experiencing repeated traumatic events. Hearing damage suffered during teen years may not surface until your late 20s or early 30s — or even your 50s or 60s, when presbycusis, age-related deterioration of hearing, becomes a greater factor.
Hearing protection prevents damaging noise levels by dampening the piercing sounds but still allowing you to hear the sounds you want to hear clearly. Our hearing protection goes beyond the kind of earplugs you buy at the drugstore — NW Ear Institute offers a variety of custom-fit hearing protection designed to fit the contours of your ear perfectly, offering a snug, comfortable fit and all-day protection from dangerous noise.
Protecting your hearing is important, as hearing loss is connected to a number of serious health ailments later in life. The relationship between hearing loss and dementia has been established in research, and it’s a close association. There is strong evidence that hearing loss accelerates brain-tissue atrophy, particularly in areas of the brain that auditory nerves would stimulate but can’t because they aren’t receiving a signal (due to a hearing loss). These areas of the brain are also related to memory and speech.
Individuals with a mild hearing loss are also three times as likely to fall down as those without, and the likelihood of falls increases as degree of hearing loss increases. Hearing loss has been linked to a variety of other diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sickle-cell anemia, and other circulatory conditions.
As a general rule, if you have to raise your voice to be heard over the music or noise, it’s probably too loud and might be on the cusp of damaging your hearing. Things like lawn mowers or heavy freeway traffic tend to hover between 80 and 90 dB, which is when hearing is at risk of damage. Those who are regularly exposed to noises of 85 dB or more should have their hearing tested regularly to see if the effects of hearing damage are already present.
If you face continuous loud-noise exposure in your leisure activities or at work, please contact us for advice on the latest hearing-protection methods that best suit your needs, or to schedule an appointment to be fit for custom hearing protection.
Are there advantages to earmuffs or earplugs?
Heavy-duty earmuffs can create a seal around the ear that cuts out noise to the same level as many earplugs. The main disadvantages of a larger headset are the possibility of less mobility and that they may fall off, leaving the ears exposed for some period of time. Earplugs may also fall out, but custom-fit earplugs are likely to stay sealed comfortably in the ear for as long as you’d like to wear them.
How can I tell if a noise is dangerous?
If you must raise your voice in order to be heard over the sound, you’re probably experiencing a dangerous amount of noise. Do what you can to move out of harm’s way, or cover your ears if possible until the noise passes.
How do I protect my ears from loud noise?
Earplugs that fit snugly and seal tightly in your ear canal typically offer protection for a variety of situations. Custom-fit hearing protection offered by NW Ear Institute can protect your ears from harmful noise levels while still allowing you to enjoy the activities you love.
How long can I be exposed to loud noises before it affects my hearing?
Permissible noise exposure levels vary. Hearing loss is cumulative, meaning that the less time you’re exposed to loud noises over the course of your life, the better your hearing health is likely to be. The point at which sound begins to damage hearing is 85 dB, for which the permissible continuous exposure period is about eight hours. For each 3-dB increase in noise pressure, the permissible exposure time before hearing damage can occur is cut in half. For example, permissible exposure to 88 dB would be four hours, 91 dB would be two hours, 94 dB would be one hour, etc.
My ears hurt after being exposed to loud noise. What should I do?
Do whatever you can to get away from that noise immediately. When a noise is painful, it’s likely that damage is being done to your hearing. Noises loud enough to cause pain are also typically loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage almost immediately. If the pain persists, please see a medical professional.
What are some common loud noises I should avoid?
Perhaps the most common loud noise you’ll encounter is freeway traffic, which can be loud enough to damage hearing (85 dB) when it’s heavy. Lawn mowers, chain saws, ambulances, garbage trucks, and motorcycles are all fairly common neighborhood or street sounds that can damage hearing. During certain times of the year, firecrackers, jackhammers, snowmobiles, or outdoor sporting equipment (guns included) might make themselves known. And of course loud music — whether it’s through earbuds and a loud MP3 player or in person at a concert — is one of the most common culprits of hearing loss today.
Where can I get custom hearing protection?
NW Ear Institute can fit you with custom hearing protection that defends the delicate inner ear against harmful noise levels.
Masking: An electronic device called a masker may be worn to distract from the ringing sensation. Maskers fit in the ear similarly to hearing aids and produce low-level sounds. In addition, bedside sound generators and other devices can also help remove the perception of ringing.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy:A therapeutic process in which we specialize, and has given relief to many of our patients. Our process is a combination of sound therapy and counseling, which alters the brain’s neural signals and weakens the perception of tinnitus, allowing you to live your daily life far more peacefully.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:A type of counseling that helps to change the body’s emotional reaction to tinnitus by altering negative thought patterns and helping to relieve stress.
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