By the Better Hearing Institute
With at least another month-and-a-half left of summer concert season, we thought it would be a good time to remind music lovers to pack the earplugs. It’s an easy and smart way to make sure you can enjoy those tunes for years to come.
Bringing earplugs to that next concert is more than a good idea, it should be a must, says the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). Millennials and teens especially should think twice about music volume because data show that hearing loss is on the rise in these age groups, which means they’re permanently losing some of their hearing at younger ages.
But take heart. Earplugs really can help. One study, carried out in conjunction with an outdoor music festival in Amsterdam last fall, found that festival-goers who wore earplugs were roughly five times less likely to have some temporary hearing loss than those who didn’t wear them. The earplug-users also were less likely to suffer from tinnitus afterwards.
Any sounds at or above 85 dBA for a prolonged period of time can be unsafe. The sounds at that Dutch music festival were at 100 decibels, pretty consistently, for 4-and-a-half hours. At that sound level, hearing damage can occur in just 15 minutes.
Luckily, earplugs are pretty easy to come by. Disposable earplugs, made of foam or silicone, usually can be found at local pharmacies. They’re practical because you can still hear music and conversation when they’re in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.
The impact of noise on our ears
We hear sound when delicate hair cells in our inner ear vibrate, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. But just as we can overload an electrical circuit, we also can overload these vibrating hair cells. Loud noise damages these delicate hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The cells that are the first to be damaged or die are those that vibrate most quickly—those that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds clearly.
Warning signs of too much noise
If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm’s length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are the warning signs:
You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area.
You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.
You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but can’t understand them.
Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health.
The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on July 19, 2016.