October is a time to celebrate fall festivities, but it is also National Protect Your Hearing Month – making it a great time to raise awareness about the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL is caused when structures on the hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear) are damaged. The damage is permanent and can be caused by short bursts of sound at a high volume or extended periods of exposure to sounds at a lower volume.
Hearing loss is more common than you may think
It is estimated that 24% of American adults under 70 may be affected by NIHL in one or both ears. Other studies suggest 13-18% of teens may suffer from potential noise-induced hearing loss.
Some common signs of hearing loss include:
- Setting the TV or radio at excessively high volumes.
- Difficulty understanding phone conversations or conversations in loud spaces.
- Sounds becoming muffled.
- Difficulty hearing consonant sounds.How to maintain healthy hearing
Hearing tests are encouraged to assess and prevent hearing loss. These tests and are recommended annually for people 50 and older and every three to 10 years for people younger than 50.
Benefits of hearing tests include:
- Establishing a base reading on your hearing so that future tests can reveal any deviations in your hearing ability.
- Encouraging healthy habits to prevent hearing damage.
- Keeping ears healthier longer.
While NIHL cannot be reversed, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from further damage. Lowering the volume of TVs, radios and headphones is essential to preserving your hearing; anything below 85 decibels is safer for your ears. Wearing activity-specific earplugs at concerts, sporting events or when using loud machinery can also prevent further hearing loss and can be purchased online or at local retailers.