October is Protect Your Hearing Month

There’s no time like the present to pay attention to your hearing health! Did you know that you can take steps today that can help to safeguard healthier levels of hearing well into your old age? October is Protect Your Hearing Month and we’re here to offer you a sound perspective on healthy habits.

Prioritize hearing health

Although we are quick to recognize the importance of hearing health, it doesn’t always get the spotlight. A 2021 survey conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association found that respondents recognized the importance of maintaining hearing health. And we should give our hearing its due attention! Hearing loss is one of the leading chronic conditions in the United States, as about 30 million people over the age of 12 have demonstrated a hearing loss in both ears.

But, our behaviors do not always support our beliefs about the importance of hearing health. In that same survey, 60% of people reported having had an eye exam in the past five years. Comparatively, only 20% had undergone a hearing test within the same period. It’s time to start scheduling regular hearing exams with the same frequency we devote to our sight. 

Understanding hearing loss

Later onset hearing loss most often comes about because of two causes: aging and noise. While we’re sure scientists are working hard on solving the aging dilemma, we’re not close to solving the issue. Our hearing will decline naturally as we age, it’s part of the process. But, we can interrupt or protect ourselves against the persistent dangers of too-loud noise. 

Our ears act as funnels for the noise around us. Birdsong, traffic, conversations with loved ones. It’s all collected by the ears and received by fine hair cells of the inner ear. These cells are non-regenerative, and so they will not repair themselves when damaged, whether that’s simply because of age or when they’re exposed too long to dangerously loud sound. As these cells are damaged or decay, less sound information is collected. These cells do the important work of accumulating the sounds around us, which are then sent to the brain for processing. If less sound information registers due to loss of the inner ear cells, then our brain receives less sound. We experience this as hearing loss. 

When the damage to the inner ear cells happens as a result of noise, we call this noise-induced hearing loss. And though you might immediately think of factory work or other noisy professions first, there is a multitude of ways we encounter too-loud noise in our lives.

Dangers of everyday sounds

When we prioritize hearing exams and monitor our hearing health, we are more likely to be on guard to the everyday sounds that might cause harm. It might surprise you to know that hobbies as innocuous as snowmobiling or concert-going can damage hearing. 

We measure sound using decibels. To give you perspective, a conversation with a friend measures around 60 decibels, while a lawn mower is around 90 decibels. Medical experts agree that exposure to noise over 85 decibels should be kept to a minimum. Federal law states that workers exposed to sound above 85 decibels within an eight-hour workday must have safety precautions instated. This might look like frequent breaks, safety headphones, or sound barriers. 

Though ideally, you would want to keep your sound exposure below 85 decibels as much as possible, experts agree that anything over 100 decibels should be tolerated for no longer than 15 minutes. Time is also an ingredient for noise-induced hearing loss and repeated exposure increases the incidence of risk.

Instill good hearing health practices

The first and the best thing you can do to ensure your future healthy hearing is to schedule an annual hearing consultation. Our team can lead you through a quick hearing exam and educate you on your current level of hearing. Scheduling an annual trip to the audiologist ensures that healthy hearing stays on your radar. 

In other areas of your life, you can begin to incorporate proactive hearing behaviors, like limiting volumes on personal devices and monitoring your earbud volumes. Keep the sound levels hovering near half and never above two-thirds of maximum volume.

Take an inventory of the noise environments that come with your hobbies. Snowmobiles have a sound level of between 85 (idling) to 110 decibels. Rock concerts can generate sound up to 120 decibels. In these and other scenarios, ear plugs go a long way toward protecting your hearing health. You might also investigate soundproof headphones or other safety measures.

Remember that there are matters beyond our control, like aging and genetics. But we do have power when it comes to the habits we can control. Get in touch today so that we can help you shape a plan around the healthiest hearing available to you in the decades ahead.