Protecting Your Hearing
We are exposed to sound on a daily basis. Volume levels vary considerably, and can easily exceed 85 decibels (dB) – the threshold that is considered safe. Any prolonged exposure to noise exceeding this is harmful and can cause permanent, irreversible hearing loss.
Excess noise exposure isn’t the only cause of hearing damage. Diseases, drugs and injury may all contribute to hearing loss. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your hearing and help prevent hearing impairment.
Protecting Your Hearing from Loud Noise
Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause of hearing loss in the U.S. The good news? It is easily preventable. Follow these tips to protect your hearing:
- Wear hearing protection when exposed to loud noise. Earplugs are a must in noisy environments such as rock concerts and sporting events. They should also be worn when riding a motorcycle or snowmobile, mowing the lawn, using power tools, etc. If your job exposes you to loud noise, your employer is required by OSHA to supply hearing protection.
- Turn down the volume. When listening to music or watching television, keep the volume low.
- Limit the number of noisy appliances running at the same time.
- Buy quieter products. Many appliances list dB ratings in their specifications.
Preventing Hearing Loss from Diseases
Some diseases can cause hearing loss. Viruses that might damage hearing include measles, mumps, whooping cough and rubella. Bacterial diseases such as meningitis and syphilis can also lead to hearing damage. Acoustic neuroma – tumors on the hearing nerve (usually benign) – may contribute to hearing loss. Tips for preventing hearing loss from disease include:
- Make sure your child is vaccinated. Immunizations offer protection from many childhood infections that can cause hearing damage.
- If you are sexually active, use protection to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, some of which can cause hearing loss.
- Don’t delay seeking medical attention should you fall ill.
Protection from Ototoxic Drugs
Some drugs cause damage to the sensory cells responsible for hearing. These include certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, salicylate pain relievers (e.g., aspirin), quinine (for treating malaria) and diuretics. In order to reduce your odds of hearing loss when taking medications, follow these tips:
- Take medications only as directed.
- If you experience symptoms of hearing loss such as tinnitus while taking new drugs, see your doctor immediately.
Preventing Ear Injuries
Head trauma can damage the temporal bones in the lower lateral walls of the skull, leading to hearing loss. To help prevent this type of injury, take the following precautions:
- Wear a seat belt at all times when in a car.
- Wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle, and participating in contact sports.
- Don’t take unnecessary risks, such as standing on the top rung of a ladder.
There are other general steps you can take to protect your hearing. Refrain from inserting foreign objects in the ears; these can lead to impacted earwax, a perforated eardrum or damage to the skin. Cotton swabs and safety pins are notorious offenders. Use swim plugs when engaging in water activities and be sure to dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing. Seek prompt medical attention if you are suffering from an ear infection.
Earplugs offer excellent protection from potential hearing loss. Because ears vary in size and shape, the most effective earplugs will be custom made from molds of your ears. We offer a variety of custom earplugs designed specifically for different activities.
Swimmers and those who participate in frequent water activities are at risk for developing a painful, itchy ear infection known as swimmer’s ear (otitis externa). These infections can also lead to a thickening of the bone and narrowed ear canals, a condition known as surfer’s ear (exostosis). Left untreated, both conditions could eventually cause hearing loss.
Keeping the ears dry is key to preventing ear infections that can cause problems. The best way to accomplish this is by wearing specially designed swimmer’s earplugs.
Swimmer’s plugs protect the ears by preventing water from entering the ear canals. They are made of a waterproof silicone that blocks the opening of the ear canal, providing a tight seal that keeps out water. Swimmer’s plugs are great for swimmers, surfers, rafters and snorkelers, and can be used to keep the ears dry when showering or bathing, as well.
Hunters, law enforcement officials and gun enthusiasts are at risk for hearing loss every time they squeeze their triggers. A single gunshot can cause permanent, irreversible hearing loss. The typical decibel rating is 140 dB – louder than a jet engine (120 dB).
Specially designed hunter’s earplugs utilize acoustic filters that amplify ambient noise, allowing the user to hear his or her surroundings better; when the weapon is fired, these filters soften the sound to protect hearing. They include a valve that closes automatically when struck by a sound wave, limiting the volume that reaches the ear.
Hunter’s plugs are available in styles that fit in the ear or behind the ear.
Musicians are especially susceptible to hearing loss because of their constant exposure to music that often exceeds safe decibel levels. To protect their hearing, they need earplugs that limit the amount of damaging noise, but still allow them to hear music that is clear and natural sounding. That’s where musician’s plugs come in.
Regular earplugs cause distortion and muffled speech by reducing higher frequency sounds. High-fidelity musician’s plugs reduce all sounds evenly while maintaining quality, so that music and speech is as close to the original as possible. They include a number of interchangeable attenuators, filters that offer varying levels of sound protection depending on the type of instrument used and the venue played.
Musicians and frequent concert attendees come into extended contact with loud sounds on a regular basis, increasing their odds of developing hearing loss. Music can reach 115 dB levels or higher, a rating that can be damaging to hearing after only 15 minutes of exposure.
The solution is musician monitors, in-ear musician’s earplugs designed to provide noise reduction without affecting the clarity of music or speech. Standard earplugs reduce sounds in the higher range of frequencies, leading to distortion and muffled speech. Hi-fidelity musician monitors reduce sounds evenly, providing clear and natural-sounding music and speech.
They take the place of traditional loudspeaker monitoring systems, which tend to be oversized and loud, increasing the noise level onstage.
Custom Earbuds for iPods
Earbuds are ubiquitous nowadays, but the ones that come standard with an iPod don’t always stay in place well, particularly when the user is engaged in physical activity. Despite their “one size fits all” claim, in reality they tend to fall out of your ears easily.
Custom earbuds designed for iPods solve this problem by fitting the unique contours of your ear canals. They are made from a custom earmold created from impressions of your ears, and offer a tight seal and perfect fit. Their custom design ensures they remain in place even during moderate to vigorous activity, and the snug fit translates to better sound quality and less distracting external noise.
Call Hill Country Audiology at (512) 763-8855 for more information or to schedule an appointment.