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Top 5 Ways To Protect Your Hearing

2012-08-09

How loud is too loud? Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (dB) may cause permanent hearing loss. Normal conversation is measured at a moderate noise level of 50-70 dB. A motorcycle or lawn mower is 85-90 dB. The extreme noise of a typical rock concert is measured at 110 to120 dB and an ambulance siren or jet engine at take-off is 119-140 dB. Regular exposure even wearing headphones or earbuds can be dangerous too if the volume is too loud.

Noise-induced hearing loss is usually painless, progressive and always permanent but can also be 100 percent preventable. Here are the top five ways you to help prevent it:

1. Monitor your exposure time to sounds over 85 dB and take periodic 15-minute "quiet" breaks. Although the maximum time to safely be exposed to 85 dB is 8 hours, the maximum time to safely be exposed to 100 dB is only 15 minutes. See pie-chart for more information.

2. Avoid hazardous sound environments. If you have to raise your voice to be heard, you are in a potentially hazardous environment for your hearing. This includes loud music performances, operating power tools and driving with the windows down at high speeds.

3. Whenever you can't get away from an extreme sound environment, wear hearing protection, such as foam, silicone or pre-molded earplugs, earmuffs or custom earplugs. Look for products with noise-reduction ratings (NRR) of at least 9dB. Most products provide a NRR of 22dB or greater. To hear music and conversation clearly, look for high fidelity hearing protection. They will reduce all sound frequencies equally, and can often make listening to music more enjoyable than without any protection. Shooter's plugs combined with earmuffs should be used for hunting and target practice. All can be found over the counter at your local drugstore or sporting goods shop.

4. Move away from on-stage monitors or amplifiers. Position yourself so you are not directly in front of the speaker while performing or listening. Musicians should avoid practicing at performance levels when possible.

5. If you suspect hearing loss or notice sudden changes in your hearing or have ear pain, see an otolaryngologist (ENT) or otologist. Also, have your hearing tested by a licensed audiologist. Common hearing tests include the pure tone threshold test, the otoacoustic emissions ("OAE") test, speech audiometry and the Hearing in Noise Test ("HINT"), which was developed by HEI scientists to assess how well you can hear speech in real world situations, where background noise is present.
 

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