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How Can Everyday Sounds (Work & Non-Work) Harm Your Hearing?

Whether you live in a big city or a small town, noise is an inevitable part of everyday life. From household appliances to work equipment, to music at a party or streaming through headphones, to the vehicle that you drive, loud noises are everywhere — even places you don’t necessarily perceive as particularly loud.

Sadly, exposure to loud sounds is a leading cause of hearing loss. Depending on the types of sounds and their energy — known as decibels, or dB — and how often and how long you are exposed to unsafe dBs, you could face serious hearing health consequences. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended a max limit of 85 dB with a max listening time of 8 hours per day to prevent damage. Listening above these limits can quickly damage your hearing. For instance, listening at 88 dB lowers your safe listen time to 4 hours per day.

When sounds reach 85 decibels (dB) or higher, the more prolonged and the more frequent the exposure, the more likely it is that damage will occur. So dBs in your ears add up as you go through your day.

For this reason, it's essential to understand the activities that are most likely to harm your hearing. If you're at risk, taking preventive and protective measures can help you to avoid the most serious consequences related to early hearing loss.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a medical phenomenon in which persistent exposure to loud noises contributes to hearing damage. regardless of your age. Did you know that the World Health Organization projects that 1.1 billion young people worldwide, age 12-35 years old, are at risk of NIHL due to lifestyle habits? Though NIHL can result from one-time events, such as gunshots and explosions, NIHL is far more common in cases of long-term exposure.

Everyday Sounds

You can encounter hearing hazards in many daily activities, such as:

  • Heavy-duty transportation

  • Subway, motorcycle

  • Industrial equipment

  • Hair dryer, blender, lawn mower

  • Headphone streaming, car audio

  • Sporting events, gym

  • Concerts, bars Often times, sound that seems 'not loud' to you can be over 85dB!Any of these places and activities have the potential to expose you to dangerous levels of noise that can harm your hearing in the short and long term.

Occupational Noise

Individuals who work in particularly loud environments are likely to be exposed to the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss. If you operate loud machinery, drive noisy vehicles, or deal with sudden loud noises on a regular basis, your job could jeopardize your hearing. Some examples of careers that may involve hazardous noise conditions include:

  • Factory and industrial workers

  • Agricultural workers

  • Paramedics, firefighters, and police

  • Members of the military

  • Kitchen workers, bartenders, and waiters

  • Mechanics

  • Construction workers

  • Mine workers

  • Airport personnel Occupational noise exposure is a genuine danger. In particularly hazardous workplaces, your employer should take precautions to ensure your hearing is safe.

Noise Damage Made Worse By Other Causes

It is important to know what other factors — when combined with noise — make the effect much worse. These include:

  • Risks you cannot change, like age or prior infections

  • Risks you can change like being up-to-date on vaccinations, or treating other medical conditions like diabetes

  • Checking out use of certain ototoxins (chemicals, medications) that damage hearing

  • Not knowing you have early signs of hearing damage Hearing Safety Training Hearing loss is a phenomenon that can be experienced by anyone. If you feel like your daily activities may be causing damage to your hearing, it could be helpful to engage in hearing safety training. Other preventative measures against daily noise include:

  • Wearing earplugs or earmuffs in particularly loud situations

  • Staying away from direct noise sources, such as speakers

  • Measuring sound levels and safe listening times to determine whether your hearing is at risk.

If you’re already facing hearing loss, however, an affordable hearing aid may be an excellent option for managing your symptoms. Remember that it is still important to practice safe listening for the times you are not wearing your aid.

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