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8 Tips to Protect Your Hearing

Sept. 15, 2017 at midnight

Your sense of hearing connects you with your world. It enables you to listen to your favorite music and engage in verbal conversation. A hearing loss not only limits your ability to enjoy these activities but can also cause social isolation and other psychological harm.

Sounds that reach 80 decibels (dB) can damage your hearing. You may think that few everyday noises surpass this threshold, but consider these average decibel levels:

  • Busy streets, 75–85 dB
  • Lawn mowers, 85 dB
  • Action movies, 100 dB

Even an everyday conversation can top 65 dB. While you need regular exposure to cause damage at the 80-dB level, sounds above 100 dB can affect your hearing in just 15 minutes.

That small window makes it critical to understand how to avoid dangerous exposures. Here are eight ways to protect your hearing:

1. Know where you’re exposed to loud sounds.

When was the last time you took inventory of the noises around you? When do you encounter those sounds—at work, at home, or during your daily commute? The first step toward prevention is identifying the everyday risks in your environment.

2. Limit devices to 60% of their maximum volume.

You may wonder, “How loud is too loud?” A good rule is to limit the volume on any device to 60% of its maximum volume. This limit is a reliable way to prevent sound-emitting devices from reaching dangerous decibel levels.

3. Use noise-canceling headphones.

The risk for hearing damage is not just how loud something sounds. If you turn up your headphones while riding the subway, that presents a serious risk—even if the perceived volume is still low. Noise-canceling headphones can help remove environmental sounds and limit the net decibel level.

4. Wear earplugs at every live music event.

Whether it’s a rock concert or a jazz trio, make a habit of bringing and wearing earplugs to every live music event. Earplugs won’t make the music harder to hear, and they’ll lower your hearing’s exposure to extreme decibel levels.

5. Get ear protection for work.

The sounds of a bustling work environment are a common cause of hearing loss. The risk extends beyond those working in construction or manufacturing. For example, think of all the sounds in a busy coffee shop—music, chatter, clinking plates, and screeching espresso machines. Contact your human resources department to identify ways to limit risk in the workplace.

6. Use ear protection at home.

The risk of hearing damage doesn’t stop when you leave work. Many spend their weekends working in the yard, pursuing hobbies, or riding a beloved motorcycle. Leaf blowers, circular saws, and exhaust pipes all present regular and serious hearing risks. Wear proper ear protection for each activity.

7. Give your ears time to recover.

After exposure to extreme noise levels, your ears require up to 16 hours to recover. To limit the potential for a “temporary threshold shift” to become a permanent hearing loss, spend time in a quiet environment following a high-decibel exposure.

8. Avoid cotton swabs.

Cotton swabs are unnecessary to maintain ear health. In fact, they increase the risk for hearing damage via an accidental jab to delicate parts of the ear. To clean the exterior of your ears, wipe them gently with a damp, warm washcloth.

If you’re worried that you may already have suffered hearing damage, get a check-up at your local hearing clinic. A professional assessment will offer a baseline for future monitoring and provide opportunities to address current hearing concerns.


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