October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. This month-long campaign is a great reminder that preventative hearing health care is just as important as treating existing hearing loss.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition facing adults in the US, and one in every four Americans suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by both one-time exposure to a brief and intense sound, known as an “impulse” sound, and by continuous exposure to loud noise over a long period of time.
You can measure the ‘loudness’ of a particular sound by its decibel level (dB). A dB of 85 and above can cause noise-induced hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter amount of time it takes to develop noise-induced hearing loss.
Everyday environments can contribute to noise-induced hearing loss. It’s important to be aware of the average decibel levels that surround you on a daily basis. You may not even know some places could be putting your hearing at risk.
Let us help you out! Here’s a list of four everyday environments that may cause noise-induced hearing loss, and some tips on how to protect your hearing:
If you live or work in a city, you can be exposed to anywhere from 60 dB to 110 dB of sound. Police and ambulance sirens are a common culprit. New York City, America’s largest city, has begun a five-year study to monitor the sounds of Manhattan in an effort to identify unhealthy noise levels.
As scientists learn more about noise-induced hearing loss, they can work together with city employees and planners to create a safer hearing environment for all who work and/or live within city limits. There are even innovations being tested out, such as “quiet concrete” in Texas!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. In fact, nearly one in five US workers has been exposed to hazardous workplace noise. Careers like construction or public transit can be really hard on the ears. Even classical musicians can be exposed to decibel levels that are too high for too long.
The solution? Wear proper hearing protection, such as industrial grade ear plugs or muffs, and try to limit your exposure to loud noise outside of your workday.
Surveys from Zagat and Consumer Reports have identified excessive noise as one of the top complaints from diners. One article from The Atlantic stated that noise levels were anywhere from 80 dB in a dimly lit wine bar at dinner time to 86 dB at a food court during brunch to a whopping 90 dB at a brew pub during a Friday night happy hour!
Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to places to dine -- if you need to shout so the person across the table from you can hear, you’re likely being exposed to too much noise.
Looking for the perfect date night venue, but worried about being able to hear your partner over the dinner rush din? There’s an app for that. SoundPrint is available on your smartphone and lets you explore quiet venues in your city through lists found on the app. The lists are curated by other people who want to protect their hearing. Don’t see you favorite quiet place on the app? You can add it to help others!
Greg Scott, SoundPrint's founder who has hearing loss, created the app when he wanted to discover where the quieter venues were so he could hear his dates.
"Finding quieter venues has gotten more difficult over the years as venues are playing background music at higher levels than before, and design their restaurants to be places of entertainment as opposed to places to enjoy the food and connect with companions,” said Scott. “As a result, noise levels at many venues have risen to the point where they can potentially endanger the hearing health of patrons and venue employees. When you take a measurement and submission on the app, you are essentially putting the venue on notice that you care about the noise levels and want them to mitigate it."
Keeping the lawn pristine can come at a price! Lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, electric saws for home improvement projects, and leaf blowers can all expose you to up to 100 dB noise. Whether you’re pushing your mower or sawing wood for a new garden shed, be sure to wear protective hearing gear.
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, but it’s up to you to protect your hearing by limiting your exposure to loud sounds, wearing protective hearing gear, and using tools to navigate hearing safety zones and find quieter venues to live your life to the fullest.
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