October is Protect Your Hearing Month

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Peter Lucier, HIS

Peter Lucier, HIS

Some situations are an obvious risk to hearing ability. Take, for instance, a job on an airport tarmac. You have seen the employees there wearing heavy noise-canceling earmuffs and using hand gestures to communicate with one another. The loud sound of jet engines would be enough to cause hearing damage in a short amount of time if it were not for these protective devices. Similarly, you have seen people wear these helpful units at a shooting range. Blasts at close distances are sufficient to cause hearing damage in an instant, so these forms of advanced protection are necessary to wear even during leisure pursuits. However, did you know that there are sounds that pose a risk to your hearing ability as part of your everyday life? Most of these sounds would need to be endured for an extended period of time were they to cause hearing damage, so only those who use these devices during a long shift at work are at risk. Let’s walk through some of the unexpected situations that can cause hearing damage, letting you know that protection is necessary. 


Dangerous Decibels: Lawn Care

One of the common household machines that can cause hearing damage is a riding lawnmower. Particularly for those who have a large yard, a couple of hours riding these vehicles can cause serious damage to hearing. Weed whackers, snowblowers, and leaf blowers also emit very loud sounds. Each of these tools can be used for a brief duration without hearing damage, but noise-induced hearing loss is caused by a combination of duration and volume. When you combine these elements, any one of these tools can become dangerous. Hearing protection is wise when you use any of these lawn care machines. At the minimum, you should insert a pair of disposable foam earplugs to attenuate the noise by about 10-15 decibels. However, a long session of mowing or grooming the lawn might require a serious pair of noise-canceling earmuffs. 


Dangerous Decibels: Home Appliances

If you take a simple reading of some home appliances, you will find that they can reach damaging levels, as well. Devices like blenders or hair dryers are loud enough to damage hearing, but they tend not to be used for dangerous durations among the average person. However, that equation can change for those who use these tools at work. A barista who uses a blender over and over for the duration of a shift at work or a hairstylist who hears a constant stream of hair dryers all day can be subject to damage without protection.


Dangerous Decibels: Music and Entertainment

Perhaps the riskiest devices in our homes are related to music and entertainment. Some of them travel with us nearly everywhere we go: headphones and earbuds. These devices are useful for music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies, television, and other audio media, however, they can be damaging when used for an extended period of time at a loud volume. 

As a good rule of thumb, try to keep your headphones and earbuds at about 75 percent of the maximum volume on a smartphone. Although you might feel tempted to listen at a louder volume, that desire probably has to do with competing background noise. If you are raising the level to play your device over the sound of transportation or even a lawnmower, you are adding extra volume to the already-loud setting. 

Those who love live music can benefit from investing in a pair of custom-molded earplugs. These devices are great for limiting the harmful sounds of music while retaining the ability to communicate with your friends at a concert or dance club. You can still hear the music while making sure that the very loud frequencies are prevented from entering the ear canal. The snug fit of these devices contributes to their effectiveness, and they even come in a wide variety of colors to suit your style. 

With these contexts in mind, you should be able to know when protection is necessary. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to put in a pair of disposable foam earplugs. These simple tools can protect you from incurring permanent damage from a known source. Prevention begins with a willingness to protect yourself! Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test.