6 Ways to Save Your Hearing

The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion individuals are at an increased risk for noise-induced hearing loss, brought about by exposure to excessive sound levels from personal mp3 devices and very loud environments such as clubs, bars, concerts, and sporting events. An projected 26 million Americans currently suffer from the condition.

If noise-induced hearing loss results from direct exposure to elevated sound levels, then what is considered excessive? It turns out that any noise higher than 85 decibels is potentially harmful, and unfortunately, many of our routine activities expose us to sounds well above this limit. An MP3 player at maximum volume, for example, hits 105 decibels, and police sirens can hit 130.

So is hearing loss an unavoidable outcome of our over-amplified life? Not if you make the right decisions, because it also happens that noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.

Here are six ways you can save your hearing:

1. Use custom earplugs

The ideal way to prevent hearing loss is to avoid loud noise entirely. Of course, for most people that would lead to quitting their jobs and dropping their plans to see their favorite music group perform live in concert.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to live like a hermit to spare your hearing. If you’re exposed to loud sounds at work, or if you plan on attending a live show, instead of avoiding the noise you can reduce its volume with earplugs. One option is to pick up a low cost pair of foam earplugs at the convenience store, understanding that they will probably create muffled sound. There is a better option.

Today, several custom earplugs are obtainable that fit comfortably in the ear. Custom earplugs are shaped to the curves of your ear for optimum comfort, and they contain sophisticated electronics that reduce sound volume evenly across frequencies so that music and speech can be perceived clearly and naturally. Speak with your local hearing specialist for more information.

2. Maintain a safe distance from the sound source

The inverse square law, as applied to sound, says that as you double the distance from the source of sound the intensity of the sound drops by 75%. This law of physics could save your hearing at a rock concert; instead of standing in the front row adjacent to the speaker, increase your distance as much as possible, managing the benefits of a good view versus a safe distance.

3. Take rest breaks for your ears

Hearing injury from exposure to loud sound is dependent on three factors:

  1. the sound level or intensity
  2. your distance from the sound source
  3. the length of time you’re subjected to the sound

You can decrease the intensity of sound with earplugs, you can increase your distance from the sound source, and you can also limit your collective exposure time by taking rest breaks from the sound. If you’re at a concert or in a recording studio, for instance, make sure to give your ears routine breaks and time to recuperate.

4. Turn down the music – follow the 60/60 rule

If you frequently listen to music from a portable music player, make sure you keep the volume no higher that 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes per day. Higher volume and longer listening times multiply the risk of irreversible damage.

5. Purchase noise-canceling headphones

The 60/60 rule is very hard, if not impossible to adhere to in certain listening conditions. In the presence of loud background noise, like in a busy city, you have to turn up the volume on your MP3 player to hear the music over the ambient noise.

The answer? Noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones will filter out background sounds so that you can enjoy your music without violating the 60/60 rule.

6. Arrange for regular hearing exams

It’s never too soon or too late to set up a hearing assessment. Along with the ability to identify present hearing loss, a hearing test can also establish a baseline for later comparison.

Ever since hearing loss develops gradually, it is difficult to detect. For the majority of people, the only way to know if hearing loss is present is to have a professional hearing test. But you shouldn’t wait until after the damage is done to schedule an appointment; prevention is the best medicine, and your local hearing specialist can supply personal hearing protection solutions so that you can avoid hearing loss altogether.