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If you are experiencing hearing loss there are many things that could have contributed to this. Age is the most common factor, with one out of three people over 65 affected and half of those 75. However, there is a growing younger demographic, who suffer hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that “about 18 percent of adults aged 20-69 have speech-frequency hearing loss in both ears from among those who report 5 or more years of exposure to very loud noise at work, as compared to 5.5 percent of adults with speech-frequency hearing loss in both ears who report no occupational noise exposure.” This means that a younger generation is experiencing hearing loss due to work and lifestyle outside of work due to exposure to dangerous levels of noise.
What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss?
Your ears transmit sound to your brain, via tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear called stereocilia. These cells are incredibly fragile and can be damaged by many different factors such as old age, certain medications, infections or impact to the head. However, exposure to noise is a huge factor in the prevalence of hearing loss. Sound is measured in decibels and any sound which rises above 85 decibel has the potential to damage your hearing over time. It is not just the level of sound but the length of exposure. This is why a person in a working environment may experience noise induced hearing loss after being exposed to a low level of noise exposure for eight hours a day and five days a week, over several years. However, as the decibels rise, as in the instance of a very loud concert, sporting event or a shooting range, the time it takes to experience the same amount of damage, happens in a shorter time.
Work Activities that Could Contribute to Hearing Loss
Veterans have an incredibly high rate of hearing loss due to their work. This is why in 2017 there were 1.16 million compensation recipients for hearing loss in the VA. Other jobs which put people’s hearing at risk include factory workers, construction workers, farmers, ambulance drivers and those who work in nightlife. OSHA requires that: employers shall make hearing protectors available to all employees exposed to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels or greater at no cost to the employees. However, it is up to you to make sure you wear your hearing protection and that it is worn correctly.
Leisure Activities that Could Contribute to Hearing Loss
It is important to remember that it is not just your place of employment which puts you at risk for hearing loss. If you play in a local orchestra or band for fun it is important to remember to wear hearing protection. Going to a nightclub, sporting event or concert can reach very dangerous decibels rather quickly, leaving many with ringing in the ears as they exit the venue. This ringing of the ears is called tinnitus and it is often a sign that you have experienced hearing loss. While the ringing may fade over time, the hearing loss is permanent, whether you realize it or not.
However, for a younger generation, one of the greatest threats to hearing is personal listening devices, such as smartphones with headphones or earbuds. The issue is that almost anyone can attain these of any age and that they are not regulated to produce sound at safe levels. It is all too easy for headphones to send decibels over 100dB to the ears causing permanent damage. The other issue is that people can listen for extended stretches of time, as there is unlimited media which can be streamed online.
Protecting Your Hearing
Understanding when your hearing is at risk and making sure you wear protection, will help to protect your hearing down the road. Even if it feels as if your hearing isn’t affected today, later on it may certainly catch up with you. When wearing headphones, limit your listening time and keep the volume under 60%. If you do feel like you have a hearing issue it’s a good idea to check it as soon as possible. Schedule a hearing test and find out how we can help you deal with noise induced hearing loss.