Hearing loss alters the lives of millions of Americans, forcing families to make adjustments in living, working and social situations. It affects the elderly, veterans returning from war zones and even teenagers. Often, loud noises found at work or at home are the cause of hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a result of repeated exposure to harmful noises. These noises could come from household items such as a lawn mower, or from attending fun and entertaining events like rock concerts or even indoor sporting events. By being aware of how repeated and prolonged exposure to these noises could cause hearing damage, it is possible to prevent NIHL.
Hearing loss is on the rise for younger Americans. Now one in five teenagers are suffering from hearing loss, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, which is an increase of 15 percent in the last decade.
What causes hearing loss?
Noises are rated in volume by decibels. Hearing Health Foundation's Safe and Sound program helps families identify damaging noise volumes and prevent hearing loss caused by unsafe listening.
A whisper is rated at 30 decibels and a normal conversation is rated at 60 decibels; these are very safe sounds. Damage can happen with prolonged exposure to any noise at 85 decibels or higher. A lawn mower runs at about 90 decibels; even with just an hour spent each week mowing the yard, the exposure can add up and hearing loss can occur.
The Safe and Sound program advises families to have no more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure at a time to noises at or above 100 decibels. This category would include a teenager's mp3 player, maxed out at full volume. Saws and woodshop tools can also emit 100 decibels of noise. Further, more than one minute of exposure to noises at or above 110 decibels risks permanent hearing loss. A rock concert, ambulance siren, jets taking off and firecrackers and shotguns firing all are included in this category.
Hearing loss prevention is as simple as deflecting loud noises. Block noises by wearing earplugs or effective earmuffs(models worn by airport employees and lawn service workers are recommended),walk away from, or limit time spent in noisy environments, and turn down the sound on tools, toys and gadgets that have volume controls: block, walk, and turn is an easy slogan to help protect and preserve hearing.
Repeated exposure to decibels above 85 causes damage to the hair cells in the ear that make hearing possible, as well as to the auditory - or hearing - nerve. If the damage is severe enough to the structure of the hair cells, hearing loss can be permanent. Once damaged, these hair cells cannot grow back. Temporary loss is also common, and can be accompanied by tinnitus, or a ringing, buzzing or roaring sound.
Damaging exposure from high decibels is all around you. Hearing Health Foundation is the leading national source of private funding for research in hearing science, and is undergoing a $50 million funding program over 10 years to find a biologic cure for hearing loss using cell regeneration. Help the foundation make hearing loss a thing of the past with a donation to fund the Hearing Restoration Project at http://www.hearinghealthfoundation.org/donate.