Hearing Protection

Suffering After Sacrifice

By Lauren McGrath

Every Veterans Day, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) celebrates the brave individuals who have served and sacrificed to defend our country. We are grateful to our active military members and veterans for their courageous protection of American values and freedoms.

As we honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, we acknowledge a tragic and troubling health problem. An astounding number of veterans—60% of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan—live with tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss. In 2017, the Veterans Administration reported 1.79 million disability compensation recipients for tinnitus and 1.16 million compensation recipients for hearing loss, the number one and two disabilities, respectively. In an HHF video about hearing loss treatment, Retired Army Colonel John Dilliard, Chair-Elect of HHF’s Board of Directors, explains, “The noise from repeated gunfire and high-frequency, high-performance aircraft engines takes its toll on the human hearing mechanisms.” Col. Dillard lives with both tinnitus and hearing loss following 26 years of service.

John Dillard and fellow soldiers, Fort Irwin National Training Center, 1977.

John Dillard and fellow soldiers, Fort Irwin National Training Center, 1977.

Dr. Bruce Douglas, 93, remembers the moment his hearing became severely compromised while serving in the Navy during the Korean War. “On what was my 26th birthday, after pulling the trigger on the M1 rifle with no protection (none of us had any) multiple times, I was left with tendonitis in both knees—and worse, permanent, chronic tinnitus due to acoustic trauma. My hearing went downhill ever after, and every imaginable kind of sound and sensation has resulted from my tinnitus,” Douglas writes in the Fall 2018 issue of Hearing Health.

Hearing protection training must start as soon as one enters the military. But there is a misconception that hearing protection inhibits vital communication and mission readiness because hearing signs of danger is imperative to survival. “Soldiers want to be able to hear the snap of the twig and want to be able to be situationally. As a result, they are often resistant to wearing hearing protection,” Col. Dillard says.

Fortunately, sophisticated hearing protection technology does exist so that military personnel do not have to choose between protecting their ears or their lives. Examples include noise-attenuating helmets, which use ear cups to protect against hazardous sound, and Tactical Communication and Protective Systems, which protect against loud noises while amplifying soft ones.

The U.S. military continues to work toward safer hearing in the service. The U.S. Army has developed the Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAPS), which are earbuds that dampen dangerous noises to safe levels using microphones and noise-canceling technology, while also providing amplification of softer sounds and two-way communication systems. An initiative by the U.S. Air Force called Total Exposure Health (TEH), meanwhile, focuses on overall health both on and off the job, will measure cumulative noise exposure over the course of 24 hours. These developments and others, which HHF applauds, are covered in greater detail in Hearing Heath’s Fall 2017 issue.

As greater preventative technology for our military becomes available, HHF remains dedicated to finding better treatments and cures for tinnitus and hearing loss to benefit the lives of millions of Americans, including veterans, a disproportionately affected group. We hope you will join us in remembering their sacrifices with gratitude and compassion.

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A Fast Track to Hearing Damage

By Andrew J. Guralnick

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Millions of commuters using the New York City subway system know it can be noisy, but just how loud is it? As a 2018 Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) intern, I set out to measure the danger that the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) subway system presents to riders and employees.

I found that the system significantly breaches the threshold of what is safe for our ears. To protect hearing, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization recommend an average exposure limit of 70 decibels (dB) over the course of 24 hours. But what we measured exceeds that limit: Our samples show the average noise levels on all subway platforms and on all subway rides (inside subway trains) is between 72.5 and 76.5 dB and between 74.1 and 75.8 dB, respectively. And, with maximum readings actually as high as 119 dB on platforms and 120 dB on rides—based on actual recorded data within the sample—the NYC subway is likely an auditory minefield. (See hhf.org/subway for full data.)

Using our data’s sample averages, I determined ranges as to what the actual averages are on all subway platforms and rides through the MTA system. Based on the data, we are 99 confident about our results.

Collecting and Analyzing

From January to August 2018, three data collectors used Decibel Meter Pro, a smartphone app on iPhones and an iPad to collect 120 samples from platforms and rides. All 60 platform samples were equally represented at five minutes each. The 60 ride samples were assigned random recording lengths from 10 to 30 minutes. Samples on Saturday and Sunday or between 11 p.m. and 4:45 a.m. on any day were excluded. Random sampling was utilized as much as possible to help ensure generalizability on behalf of all platforms and rides.

The analysis examined potential harm to hearing from loud noises on subway platforms and loud noises during subway rides. For platform noise, the main variable is the number of trains that pass; for subway ride noise, the main variable is the number of local stations the train passes. We also investigated the number of seconds the subway noise level reached 75 dB or higher.

When measuring subway rides, we noted train travels between Manhattan and another borough or vice versa; whether a train runs above ground; whether the sample was collected during rush hour; and whether a local train ever becomes an express train, with fewer stops.

The statistical method of multiple regression was used to predict dangerous noise exposure on both platforms and rides. We can predict that each train that enters or leaves a platform will expose a rider’s ears to 16.53 seconds of noise at 75 dB or higher. For example, if a rider waits at a platform where two trains come and go before their train arrives, that would be a predicted exposure of 82.65 additional seconds of noise at 75 dB or higher.

We can also predict that each subway stop that is passed will expose a rider’s ears to 36.06 seconds of noise of 75 dB or higher. For example, if a rider passes 10 local train stops on their trip, the predicted exposure of noise at 75 dB or higher is 360.60 additional seconds—or 6.01 additional minutes.

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Cumulative Effect

HHF’s recommendation for commuters, MTA staff, and platform retailers such as newsstand operators is simple: Wear ear protection. MTA staff and platform retailers are at elevated risk given the hours they spend underground and on the trains. The tendency for many commuters to block noise by raising the volume of their headphones is not a helpful approach and could in fact damage hearing even more.

The subway is merely only one of many sources of daily noise. “Noise-induced hearing loss can result from a single, sudden noise event and from constant exposure to loud noises that has a cumulative effect (not unlike sun exposure) and can lead to related negative health effects when unknown and untreated,” says Lauren McGrath, HHF’s marketing manager.

The MTA appears aware of the issue of subway noise. The newly built Second Avenue subway line uses effective noise-reduction measures such as “low vibration tracks and sound absorbing panels.” We hope the MTA will continue to use these quieter, low vibration tracks when making subway and station upgrades, especially since they are more cost-effective than traditional wooden tracks.

2018 HHF intern Andrew J. Guralnick is pursuing a master’s in public administration at Baruch College in New York City.

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

 
 
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5 Critical Facts About Hearing Protection

By Laura Friedman

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. How many of these facts from Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) do you know?

Fact #1: Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is acquired from excessive noise

  • ~30 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels on the job

  • Nearly 1 in 5 American teenagers are expected to acquire hearing loss largely due to overexposure of loud sounds

  • 25% of Americans age 65-74 and nearly 50% of those 75+ have disabling hearing loss

  • Approximately two-thirds of service members and veterans have NIHL or tinnitus, or both

  • Many veterans also have processing disorders as a result of blast or high noise exposure

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Fact #2: NIHL is preventable. The measures needed to prevent NIHL are simple: “Walk, Block, and Turn. Walk away from the sound source, block your ears using ear plugs, and turn down the volume,” advises Nadine Dehgan, HHF’s CEO.

Fact #3: Musicians are 57% more likely to experience tinnitus and are almost four times more likely to develop NIHL than the general public. Sound onstage can reach up to 110 decibels (dB), the equivalent of a jackhammer. Prolonged exposure to loud noise causes hair cells of the inner ear to be damaged, leading to permanent hearing loss.

Fact #4: A portable listening device at maximum volume (105 dB) is louder than heavy city traffic, drills, noisy subway platform and equal to a table saw. Blasting the volume in earbuds hurts hearing. It is estimated that 20% of teenagers, an age group that frequently uses portable listening devices, will suffer from hearing loss from overexposure to noise.

Fact #5: Steps to identify and prevent hearing loss should begin at birth. In 1993, only 5% of newborns were tested for hearing loss at birth. Thanks to HHF’s instrumental role in passing Universal Newborn Hearing Screening legislation, today that number is 97%. Early detection and intervention helps diminish or even eliminate negative impacts of undetected hearing loss on social, academic and emotional development in children with hearing loss.

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

 
 
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Turning Fourth of July Into a Science Lesson

By Kelly N. Barahona

In most cities if not towns of a certain size in the U.S., a grand display of fireworks for the Fourth of July is part of the celebration of America’s birthday. But just how loud are the fireworks people have come to expect every summer? Unfortunately fireworks can measure from 140 to as high as 165 decibels, easily a hearing-damaging event if you are sitting too close.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the festivities. With the abundance of decibel-reading apps for smartphones it’s easier than ever before to learn how much noise is in the world around us. Most apps use the smartphone’s microphone to give a reading of the decibel level. As with a professional-grade meter, most apps can also show how the noise fluctuates over time, in real time, and provide numerical reference points that users can compare to their own sound levels. Some apps even let you geo-tag the decibel level to a specific location, like your local coffee shop or favorite restaurant.

Parents, camp counselors, and teachers can turn the Fourth of July into a science lesson. On the night of the fireworks show, Hearing Health Foundation recommends staying at least one block away from where the fireworks are being displayed and using a smartphone app to measure the decibel level.

If you want to be closer to the action, protect your hearing by using foam earplugs or over-the-ear earmuffs for the youngest children. A fun but loud activity like this can be a good segue for conversations about how listening to music at too loud a volume and participating in noisy recreational activities may be harmful, as well as how to incorporate better hearing health practices in your daily life.

Fourth of July should be a time of fun and enjoyment, but as with anything, it is necessary to take precautions to make the holiday safe as well. Teach your loved ones about the noises and sounds around them to hopefully encourage everyone to take active measures to protect their hearing on a regular basis. Remember, noise is the most preventable cause of hearing loss.

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Paying Tribute on Armed Forces Day

By Siera Whitaker

May 20 is Armed Forces Day and Hearing Health Foundation is paying tribute to the men and women who serve in our armed forces.

The number one and two war wounds for active service members and veterans are hearing loss and tinnitus, directly impacting their ability to conduct missions and follow instructions. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, by the end of 2014 over 933,000 veterans received disability compensation as a result of hearing loss, and about 1.3 million received compensation for tinnitus.

Extended, unprotected exposure to noise that reaches 85 decibels (the sound of a lawnmower) or higher can cause permanent inner ear damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states difficulty with hearing is the third most commonly reported chronic health condition in the U.S.; approximately 40 million Americans ages 20 to 69 have hearing loss in one or both ears, and one main cause is excessive, loud noise.

When it comes to hearing loss and tinnitus, soldiers are at an increased risk. They are susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) because they are exposed to loud machinery and explosions on a constant basis. In combat, soldiers are often exposed to sudden noises, such as from an improvised explosive device (IED) or other similar weapon, which are difficult to predict and be protected against. These sudden noises can result in temporary hearing loss and put military personnel at risk. However, the word “temporary” should be approached with caution. Repeated short-term hearing loss can damage the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss that becomes permanent.

Hearing loss as a result of noise is 100 percent preventable. Wearing hearing protection such as noise attenuating helmets, which use ear cups to protect against hazardous sound, or Tactical Communication and Protective Systems (TCAPS), can go a long way to reduce overall exposure.

Since these brave men and women are disproportionately impacted by hearing loss and tinnitus that likely affects many other aspects of their lives, Hearing Health Foundation is proud to pay tribute to them on Armed Forces Day. If you are a veteran, current service member, or have family or friends who have bravely served our country, please check out our veterans' resources and share your story about hearing loss or tinnitus with us.

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Veterans Day

By Morgan Leppla

Can you guess the number one and two war wounds among veterans? Tinnitus and hearing loss, respectively.

Sixty percent of vets return from war with hearing loss and tinnitus. Enlisted for 11 years, Sergeant Nathan Heltzel has a 40 percent hearing loss in his left ear, a 30 percent hearing loss in his right ear, and tinnitus that is a direct result of gunfire and loud jet engines on flight line duty.

He recalls that during his time in the military from 1995 to 2009 there technically was a requirement to wear ear protection, but hearing the radio, team, and anything else that could be advantageous was prioritized over protection, so it was not enforced.

He left service because of hearing loss and has learned to manage tinnitus on his own, using a white-noise machine to mask ringing sounds while he sleeps.

Another serviceman, Major Richard Uzuanis, says it is not in military culture to address things that could impact one’s ability to perform duties and missions, so many people ignore their hearing loss or tinnitus. Uzuanis adds that it contributes to the overall safety of troops if people are hearing clearly.

Hearing Health Foundation wants to thank service members and veterans and remind them that they are disproportionately at risk for sustaining hearing loss and tinnitus. Hearing loss affects how one conducts missions and follows instructions. Take precautions and protect your ears from the dangers of noise, to ensure your safety, and the safety of those around you.

Lastly, check out our veterans’ resources page today!

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HHF Celebrates National Protect Your Hearing Month

By Emily Shepard

October marks National Protect Your Hearing Month, part of the American Academy of Audiology’s (AAA) campaign to raise public awareness about hearing protection. Through extensive research and programming such as the Safe and Sound Program, Hearing Health Foundation has contributed greatly to this awareness. To celebrate National Protect Your Hearing Month, HHF has compiled a list of 5 Must Know Facts about Hearing Loss Prevention.

Fact #1: Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can be contracted in a variety of environments.  Around 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69- around 15% of the population- have NIHL due to exposure to loud sounds or noise at work or in leisure activities. 60% of military service members have NIHL or tinnitus, or both. Given this huge percentage, it’s unsurprising that active and veteran service members rank hearing loss and tinnitus as their top health concern.  

Fact #2: NIHL is the most preventable type of hearing loss. The measures needed to prevent NIHL are easy and simple. Just remember the following three words: Walk, Block, and Turn. When exposed to loud sounds, walk away. Block noise by wearing earplugs or other hearing protective devices when involved in a loud activity. Turn down the sound on stereos and mp3 devices. These are some of many ways you can help protect your hearing. Ultimately, the idea is to keep an eye (or an ear) on noises that seem hazardous or alarming.   “For more information about how to protect your hearing, please visit our partner’s page, It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing®.

Fact #3:  Half of classical orchestral musicians experience hearing loss. But that doesn’t mean you should! As stated in our blog post, “The Danger From Noise When It Is Actually Music”, musicians practice or perform up to eight hours a day. Sound levels onstage can reach up to 110 decibels (dB), the equivalent of a jackhammer! Prolonged exposure to 85 dB (the sound of heavy traffic), causes hair cells of the inner ear to be permanently damaged and can lead to hearing loss. With an 85 dB minimum for this risk, musicians exposed to jackhammer-levels are in dangerous territory. Attending an orchestra show or any other musically-vibrant production may not put you at the same risk of musicians, but it is still important to take cautionary measures. Find a seat that isn’t too close to the front of the stage and bring earplugs in case the music gets too loud. If the sound becomes especially loud, it might be worthwhile to leave early. Since soundtracks and recordings of shows are often available for purchase, there’s no need to stay out of fear of missing out. Remember, safety should always come first.  

Fact #4: What commonly used portable device is louder than a hair dryer, dishwasher, heavy city traffic, and a subway platform? The correct answer is an MP3 player at maximum volume (105 dB). Listening to your favorite artists or podcasts on blast may seem like a thrill, but there’s nothing fun about subjecting your ears to hazardous noise levels. 1 in 5 teenagers, an age group that frequently uses MP3 players, suffer from hearing loss. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation reports that 12.5% of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from loss of hearing as a result of using ear phones or earbuds turned to a high volume. So to play it safe, HHF suggests no more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure at or above 100 decibels.  

Fact #5: Steps to prevent hearing loss should begin the moment someone is born. In 1993, only 5% of newborns were tested at birth for hearing loss. Thanks to HHF’s instrumental role in establishing Universal Newborn Hearing Screening legislation, this percentage increased dramatically. By 2007, 94% of newborns were tested. Early detection of hearing impairments in infants can help to diminish or even eliminate negative impacts that would otherwise harm their future development. Therefore it is important to screen infants for hearing impairments, preferably before they are discharged from the hospital. You can learn about the different types of tests hospitals use to screen infants here.  

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Selecting the Right Earmuff

By Colin MacKenzie and Gary Klee

When combining hearing protection with safety glasses, face masks, etc., ensure performance is not adversely affected.

Wearing hearing protection can mean the difference between enjoying the sounds of everyday life and a lifetime of disability. Every day, we are exposed to potentially hazardous environmental noise. It is, therefore, critical that workers who must be present where the noise level is high and constant select either a muff or plug protector to reduce the noise level to an acceptable level. We will now discuss the factors you should consider when selecting the correct earmuff for the job.

Step 1: Determining Your Noise Level

Is the noise level and frequency content known (dB and Hz)?

If not, see the list of common noise sources on the next page. On some machines and power tools, you can find the dB level in the user manual or stated on a label on the machine.

If yes, follow this example: It is recommended that the calculated level under the earmuff should be under 85 dB (A). Therefore, subtract 85 dB from the noise level dB to find out the minimum protection level needed. The key is to provide enough attenuation but not enough to overprotect the wearer. Understand your whole-shift noise exposures and select the earmuff on the basis of that exposure, and do not use the highest measured noise level as your guide.

Example:

If you use a chainsaw, and the dB level is 110 dB (A). The recommended level under the ear cup should be below 85 dB (A). Therefore, you need an earmuff with an attenuation of at least 25 dB (110–85 =25).

When to consider selecting an earmuff with a lower protection level:

  • Is the exposure time shorter than four hours? The earmuff protection level is based on noise exposure over an eight- hour working day. If the exposure is shorter, you should consider selecting a lower protection level.

  • Do you need to hear important information from colleagues, warning signals etc.? Consider selecting a lower protection level or use an electronic level dependent earmuff.

  • Are you suffering from hearing loss? If you have a hearing impairment, you may already have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments. If you select the highest attenuation for hearing protectors, you may find it even more difficult to communicate or hear warning alarms.

  • When to consider selecting an earmuff with a higher protection level:

  • Does the noise consist mainly of low-frequency noise? If the noise is mainly low frequency, you should consider selecting a higher protection level because low-frequency noise is more difficult to block out.

  • Do you need to wear safety glasses, face masks etc.? When combining hearing protection with safety glasses, face masks, etc., ensure performance is not adversely affected. If you are uncertain, seek additional advice and guidance or select an earmuff with a slightly higher protection level.

  • Are there any other noise sources nearby? If there are other noise sources nearby, you should consider selecting a higher protection level.

Step 2: Choose the Correct Earmuff Style

  • Are there any requirements to wear a hard hat at your workplace? If so, select a cap-mounted ear muff. Make sure that the hard hat you choose has universal slots that can be used in combination with the selected ear muff.

  • Do you need to wear a bump cap or a hat for sun protection? Neckband ear muffs can be worn around the back of the neck, so users can wear them with bump caps, full-brim hard hats, or hats without attachment slots.

Step 3: Other Requirements

  • Is the noise intermittent, or do you move in and out of noisy areas? Consider selecting an electronic level-dependent earmuff. The level-dependent earmuff protects against impulsive or intermittent hazardous noise while allowing situational awareness.

  • Are you working with monotonous or stationary work tasks without the need to hear warning signals, etc.? Select an earmuff with a built-in AM/FM radio. Employees who wear radio earmuffs are more productive and motivated on the job.

  • Are you working with monotonous work tasks and need to hear warning signals, etc.? Select an earmuff with both AM/FM radio and a level-dependent hearing function.

Common Noise Sources

Below are examples of different noise sources with their approximate sound pressure level in dB(A). These examples should only be used as guidance, as large variations may occur. The distance and surroundings also will affect the noise level.

Noise.Sources

Colin MacKenzie is President, Sales & Marketing at Hellberg Safety. Gary Klee is Product Manager, Above-the-Neck, at Protective Industrial Products Inc. (PIP), which is the exclusive supplier of Hellberg hearing protection in North America.

Photo Credit: Protective Industrial Products Inc.

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6 Easy Tips for Protecting Your Hearing This Summer

By Laura Friedman

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) and Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) are encouraging people of all ages to protect their hearing this summer so they can treasure the sounds of the season for a lifetime. Packing earplugs along with the sunscreen for summer outings is just one of six easy tips.


While many noisy recreational activities are part of summer fun, it’s extremely important to take precautions to ensure that these activities don’t harm our hearing.
 
Prolonged exposure to loud outdoor concerts, lawn mowers, power tools, motorized recreational vehicles, target shooting, sporting events and fireworks can potentially damage our ears. In fact, the single bang of a firecracker at close range can cause permanent hearing loss in an instant, making it forever more difficult to hear the quieter sounds of summer.
 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults (12 to 35 year olds) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues and the unsafe use of personal audio devices.
 
“Hearing is the sense that connects us to each other,” says William Hal Martin, Ph.D., Professor of Otolaryngology, National University of Singapore, Program Director MSc of Audiology, Center for Hearing, Speech & Balance, and Co-Director of Dangerous Decibels. “Exposure to high level sounds cannot only destroy our ability to hear, it can cause tinnitus—ringing in the ears.”
 
“People of all ages are at risk of hearing loss from high level sounds, but it easily can be prevented by simple steps,” Martin continues. “It is important to recognize when your ears are in danger and to safeguard them so you can enjoy listening to friends, music, and sounds you love for the rest of your life.”
 
How Noise Affects Our Hearing
 
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, like the sounds of birds singing and children speaking.
Sound volume is measured in decibels, with the softest sound a normal hearing human can hear measuring at 0 dBA. Any sounds above 85 dBA for 8 or more hours are considered unsafe. Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 dB peak SPL, presenting the risk of irreversible ear damage.
 
Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health as well. 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.

6 Easy Tips for Protecting Your Hearing This Summer

  1. Walk away and plug your ears. If a loud noise takes you by surprise, quickly plug your ears with your fingers and walk away. Increasing the distance between you and the source of the sound will help reduce the intensity (or decibels) at which the sound is reaching your ears.

  2. Use earplugs. When you know you’ll be around loud sounds, use earplugs. Disposable earplugs, made of foam or silicone, are often available 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.

  3. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Be smart when you celebrate 4thof July festivities. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. And when watching the show, stay a safe distance away—where you can enjoy the colors and lights but not expose yourself and your family to loud noises. To protect your hearing, make sure you’re wearing earplugs and that they’re securely in place before the show begins. Also be sure to keep them in for the entire show.

  4. Limit your time in noisy environments. Do all you can to limit the length of time you spend in a noisy environment. When you do participate in noisy activities, alternate them with periods of quiet. And remember to use ear protection.

  5. Turn it down. When listening to smartphones and other electronics, keep them at a low volume. Importantly, limit your use of headphones and ear buds. Remember, it’s not just the volume that matters. It’s also the duration of time spent listening.

  6. Visit your local hearing healthcare professional for custom-fitted ear protection and a hearing test. A hearing healthcare professional can provide a hearing test to determine your baseline hearing level and determine if you have any hearing loss that should be addressed. Hearing care professionals also can provide custom ear protection to ensure a proper fit.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on June 26, 2015. 

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Mind Your Ears

By Marc A. Gallo

Many of us go about life enjoying the symphony of sounds from birds singing in the trees to your favorite band rockin’ out at a local music venue. These as well as other sounds give us great pleasure. But extensive exposure to sounds that might not seem very loud may in fact result in long term damage to your hearing.

Let Me Give You a Few Examples…

You work and live in the city. To get from your home to your job or to hook up with friends requires taking the subway. To get back home afterwards means you have to take the subway again. If you’re exposed to subway noise in excess of 15 minutes a day you will suffer permanent hearing loss over time.

Here’s another example…you just bought the new iPhone 6 from Apple. Killer phone…and you’re psyched to enjoy your music on iTunes. The new phone conveniently comes with earbuds. You pop ’em in and crank it up! It sounds loud but it’s not hurting you. Or is it? Believe it or not, the iPhone at its maximum volume exceeds 100 db. Listening to your music anywhere near 100 db for more than 30 minutes a day is causing permanent hearing damage.

I Have Tinnitus and It’s Only Getting Worse

I’m a musician, performer and loud-mouthed Irish-Italian…a dangerous mix. Having rehearsed and performed in bands and studios over all these years has caused some degree of hearing loss but worse yet, tinnitus. It’s the dreaded ringing of the ears.

When I go to bed at night, I hear ringing. When I wake up, I hear ringing. When I meditate, I hear ringing. I will never experience silence again. Don’t end up like me or many celebrities like Pete Townsend, Danny Elfman, Will.I.Am and many others. We neglected our ears and now we’re paying the price.

But There’s Hope!

Start protecting your ears today! Turn down the volume. It doesn’t need to be SO loud to be enjoyed. Wear ear plugs when you go to sporting events and concerts. These venues normally exceed 110 db when everyone screams after a touchdown or an encore!

Protect your ears even when you’re doing normal everyday tasks like mowing the lawn, vacuuming your carpet and blowing your leaves. Excessive sound pressure levels, albeit briefly, still have a deleterious affect on your hearing in the long term.

Believe me, you want to enjoy the sound of silence. I wish I could.

This post originally appeared on Mind The Gap's blog on March 27, 2015. The author, Marc A. Gallo. has recorded, performed and published music for Great Egg Music since 1990 and is currently President of Mind The Gap, a provider of on hold music and messaging services. 

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