Listen Up!

Photo by Alyssa Llamas

While waiting for my connecting flight, I was sitting next to this girl whose music was pretty loud. Actually, it was so loud that it took me a while to realize that she was using headphones. Two things came to mind. First, great taste. Broadway music…Love it! 20 days till Les Miserables! (and Christmas). Second, her ears! Girl, aren’t your ears in pain?!

Noise-induced hearing loss is exactly what it sounds like: hearing loss induced by noise. It can be caused by a one-time exposure to a very loud sound or from listening to loud sounds over an extended period. According to the CDC, about 12.5% of kids and teens (approximately 5.2 million) and 17% of adults (approximately 26 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise.

Although noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and cannot be medically or surgically corrected, it is preventable. To reduce your risk of noise-induced hearing loss, here’s what you can do:

  • Adopt behaviors to protect your hearing:
    • Avoid or limit exposure to excessively loud sounds
    • Turn down the volume of music systems
    • Move away from the source of loud sounds when possible
    • Wear ear plugs when you are involved in a loud activity
  • Identify sources of loud sounds (such as gas-powered lawnmowers, snowmobiles, power tools, gunfire, or music) that can contribute to hearing loss and try to reduce exposure
  • Seek hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist or other qualified professional, especially if there is concern about potential hearing loss

You might be wondering:

1. What’s loud?

Here are some measurements from the NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders):

  • Normal conversation = 60 decibels
  • Motorcycle = 95 decibels
  • Personal stereo system (aka iPhone) at maximum level = 105 decibels
  • Rock concert = 110 decibels
  • Firecracker = 150 decibels

2. How loud is too loud?

  • 110 decibels: Regular exposure of more than 1 minute risks permanent hearing loss.
  • 100 decibels: No more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure recommended.
  • 85 decibels: Prolonged exposure to any noise at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss.

So protect your ears! You only have two of them!

And for your listening pleasure, the Les Miserable soundtrack!


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