Not all types of hearing loss can be prevented. Presbycusis – age-related hearing loss – occurs naturally, affecting as many as 1/3 of adults aged 65 or older. But another leading cause of hearing loss, excess noise exposure, is easily prevented if you take the proper hearing protection.
Dangerous Decibel Levels
In order to protect your hearing from permanent damage, it’s important to realize when noise levels exceed safe thresholds. The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states that any noise exceeding 85 decibels (dB) can cause damage to your hearing. To put this into perspective, the sounds of a busy street with constant traffic measure around that level. As a rule of thumb, if you need to raise your voice to be heard over the background noise, it’s too loud. In those situations, you should be wearing hearing protection.
When to Wear Hearing Protection
Any situation in which you are exposed to prolonged noise exceeding 85 dB is cause for wearing hearing protection, whether in the workplace or taking part in leisure activities. Rock concerts, motorcycle rides, using power tools, and hunting excursions are a few notable examples. A single loud gunshot or explosion can cause irreparable damage to your ears, so be prepared!
Even activities such as listening to personal music devices through ear buds can cause damage if the volume level is too high.
Fortunately, modern devices – ranging from commercially available earplugs to custom-made ear molds with filter systems – provide excellent protection in a variety of situations. There are even instruments made specifically for use by swimmers, surfers, and those in law enforcement. Take advantage of the best hearing protection available now, before a hearing problem develops.