Noise induced hearing loss can occur from exposure to a one-time burst of extremely loud noise or repeated exposure to loud noise over time. You can conserve hearing by wearing hearing protection around loud sounds and limiting noise exposure.
Audio players have been the subject of hearing loss research since the popularity of iPods and MP3 players has increased in recent years. While loud environmental sounds may not be easily escapable, personal listening habits are optional. There are steps consumers can take to diminish the risk audio players have on hearing loss. Volume, time listening and earphone style can all be optimized to find the best combination for hearing conservation.
For example, to preserve your hearing, doctors recommend headphones, which sit on your head like earmuffs, rather than earbuds, which fit inside your ear. The main reason is earbuds naturally add about 9 decibels of volume because they are closer to the ear canal. In addition, earbuds do not block out as much background noise, so most of us will increase the volume to unsafe levels. There are many cheap earbuds on the market, which may be great in a pinch, but these poorly made products will distort sound or produce uneven levels of sound, which leads to increasing the volume to harmful levels.
- If you hear ringing, roaring or buzzing after wearing earbuds or headphones, you could be damaging your ears. Make sure to turn down the volume.
- If you go to a concert or club, sit in the middle of the room and make sure to wear hearing protection. The effects of loud noise exposure are cumulative and can damage your ears over time.
- The chance of over exposure to loud sounds can be reduced by wearing headphones instead of earbuds.
- Custom ear protection is important for people such as musicians and hunters.
- If you hear your friend’s music while sitting next to them, ask them to turn it down.
- Make sure to visit a hearing care professional to get a hearing health evaluation.
Everyone over the age of 40 should have a baseline hearing test, even if you do not feel you have a problem. It is beneficial to have something to compare with five, 10 or 20 years down the road.
By Dr. Sarah Licht, Au.D. contributing writer, Doctor of Audiology and provider at North Georgia Audiology in Woodstock.