Protecting your hearing

As we all sit under lock down and try to keep ourselves busy and sane at the same time, we mourn the loss of our freedom of movement, our freedom to socialize and the fact that we cannot see our loved ones. In a technology driven society we are lucky to have the ability to communicate with our loved ones and in some cases carry on with our work and meetings over the digital platforms that are available. We put on our headsets and earphones to get the bet sound and to keep the background noise down to a minimum. Never thinking we might not be able to hear the conversation due to hearing loss. Or that the headphones or insert earphones could cause hearing loss.

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) makes up a big percentage of the cause of global hearing loss. Studies done in America estimate that up to 40% of people with hearing loss could attribute this to noise exposure. NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense “impulse” sound, such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time. We would normally think that this would be industrial noise or loud machinery and music but wearing headphones or insert earphones can also attribute to NIHL.

Due to the acoustic changes to the volume of the ear canal when wearing headphones or insert earphones the sound arriving at the ear drum could also be loud enough to harm your hearing. The golden rule for using devices with headphones or insert earphones is 60% of the volume of your device for 60 minutes. Longer exposure to louder sound can cause a temporary threshold shift in your hearing and with repeated exposure can cause permanent damage.

NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. If you understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health, you can protect your hearing for life.

Here’s how:

  • Know which noises can cause damage (those at or above 85 dBA).
  • Wear earplugs or other protective devices when involved in a loud activity
  • If you can’t reduce the noise or protect yourself from it, move away from it.
  • Be alert to hazardous noises in the environment.
  • Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
  • Make family, friends, and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.
  • Have your hearing tested if you think you might have hearing loss.

For activities that traditionally cause NIHL you can use earplug available at most pharmacies that are one size fits all. If you are regularly exposed to loud noise at work or in your social life (riding a motorcycle or playing in a band) it is best to have custom hearing protection made for the specific noise you are exposed to. This can be done at any audiologist.

– By Carien de Jager