“Are your hobbies noisy?”
“Yes, I do a lot of yard work, and I also enjoy woodworking. Will that affect my hearing?”
As an audiologist with 29 years of experience, I have started to notice patterns emerging in my audiograms. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of them. As you can see on the audiogram below, there is a dip near 4000 Hz. Audiologists refer to this type of hearing loss as a 4000 Hz notch.
You might have noise-induced hearing loss and not realize it.
Because noise-induced hearing loss develops slowly after many years of prolonged noise exposure, many people might not notice the change.
Many of my patients’ hearing loss began at a frequency where they could still hear some speech sounds. Because of this, they might not have had difficulty understanding conversations at first. However, as exposure to noise continued over the years, their hearing worsened, severely lessening their ability to understand speech.
Common Types of Noise Exposure
The CDC provides a list of common sounds that will damage the inner ear when they are loud and prolonged. Here are a few:
- Gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers. They range about 80-85 decibels and can damage your hearing after 2 hours of constant exposure.
- They range about 95 decibels and damage your hearing after about 50 minutes of exposure.
- Sporting events. Events such as hockey playoffs or football games can reach about 100 decibels and damage your hearing within 15 minutes of exposure.
- Personal listening devices. The maximum volume of a personal listening device can reach 105-110 and cause hearing loss in less than 5 minutes.
I’m sure you’ve participated in at least one item on the list without using hearing protection. Remember, if healthy hearing habits are not practiced on a routine basis, hearing loss can happen over time.
How To Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Hearing loss resulting from noise is often preventable. The best ways to protect your hearing from noise damage are to:
- Lower the volume on any personal listening devices.
- Wear over-the-counter hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs. Make sure you are inserting your foam earplugs correctly by watching this tutorial.
- Visit your local audiologist and obtain a pair of custom hearing protection. You will be surprised by the functionality and durability of professionally made hearing protection. Check out our diagram here.
- Obtain a baseline audiogram yearly from [Dr. your name here] to identify shifts in your hearing that you may otherwise not notice. Having these checks done will also give you the opportunity to discuss more about your specific noise exposure and receive recommendations for your occupation or hobby.
Why protecting your hearing is important.
The reason I wrote this article is to show you that loud environments endanger your hearing. Don’t be the person who disregards the warning, thinking, “It will be fine. It will not happen to me.”
Despite your doubts, hearing protection is needed to preserve your hearing in noisy environments. Research has proven that wearing hearing protection will also:
- Decrease your chances of cognitive decline.
- Decrease your chances of tinnitus.
- Decrease your risk of social isolation and depression.