The key words are education and prevention!
Dealing with noise and its effects on your hearing is a personal responsibility. The obvious first rule is to avoid loud noise whenever possible. A good rule of thumb is to remember that if you must shout to be heard, then you should avoid the situation.
In typical day-to-day activities, you and your children can be exposed to damaging noise from many sources, such as:
- Lawn mowers and leaf blowers
- Power tools
- Kitchen appliances (like food processors, garbage disposals, and dishwashers)
- Prolonged exposure to heavy traffic or subway noise
- Long flights in an airplane
- Farm tractor noise
In addition, recreational activities can be sources of damaging noise:
- Hunting and target shooting
- Riding personal water craft
- Motorcycle riding
- Attending rock concerts
- Listening to music on personal devices (such as MP3 players)
Here are some things you can do:
Wear hearing protection. Cotton in the ears will not work. Hearing protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs, can be purchased at drugstores, hardware stores, or sports stores. Custom earmolds can be made to fit your ears by an audiologist. Learn how to correctly insert the earplugs and earmolds for the best noise reduction.
Earplugs are placed into the ear canal so that they totally block the canal. They come in different shapes and sizes, or they can be custom-made by taking an impression of the ear. Earplugs can reduce noise by 15 to 30 decibels (dB) depending on how they are made and fit.
Earmuffs fit completely over both ears. They must fit tightly so that sound is blocked from entering the ears. Like earplugs, muffs can reduce noise 15 to 30 dB depending on how they are made and fit.
Earplugs and earmuffs can be used together to achieve even greater sound reduction. Use of earplugs and earmuffs is recommended when noise exposure is particularly high.
Do not listen to loud sounds for too long. If you don’t have hearing protection, move away from the loud sound. Give your ears a break from the sound. Plug your ears with your fingers as emergency vehicles pass on the road.
Lower the loudness of the sound. Keep personal listening devices set to no more than half volume. Don’t be afraid to ask others to turn down the sounds from speakers. Speak to the movie theater projectionist if the movie sound track is too loud.
Be a good consumer. Look for noise ratings on appliances, sporting equipment, power tools, and hair dryers. Purchase quieter products. This is especially important when purchasing toys for children.
Be a local advocate. Some movie theaters, health clubs, dance clubs, bars, and amusement centers are very noisy. Speak to managers and those in charge about the loud noise and the potential damages to hearing. Ask to have the noise source lowered.
Can my ears get used to noise?
Don’t be fooled by thinking your ears are “tough” or that you have the ability to “tune it out”! Noise-induced hearing loss is usually gradual and painless but, unfortunately, permanent. Once destroyed, the hearing nerve and its sensory nerve cells do not repair.
If you think you have “gotten used to” the noise you routinely encounter, you may already have some hearing damage.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
501-778-3868 or 501-922-0053