Hearing is one of our most vital senses as it helps us connect to the world in a variety of different ways. It helps keep us safe from danger in the form of alarms, horns, and even a shout to “get out of the way” if a potential hazard is imminent. We also rely on the ability to hear a wide range of frequencies to communicate effectively with the people around us. As hearing loss becomes more pronounced, it makes it that much more difficult to pick up on these intricacies as certain sounds become incomprehensible.
How to Protect Against Permanent Hearing Loss
Although some degree of hearing loss is common with age, there are recommendations to follow to reduce the risk of permanent damage.
Safe Sound Levels
Getting familiar with how sound is measured can provide a clearer picture of what sounds are acceptable and what sounds are potentially perilous if heard on a regular basis.
Sound is measured in decibels which is indicated by the short form dB or dBA. The difference being that dB refers to the sound level being produced while dBA refers to the level it is received at by the human ear. So, to put it in perspective, a normal conversation sits at about 60 dB, a whisper would be roughly 30 dB, the average rock concert about 110 dB, and a plane taking off would be approximately 120 dB. This is why the ground crew at airports are always wearing protective headgear for their ears!
Avoiding Prolonged Exposure to Noise
While it is almost impossible to avoid loud sounds entirely, there are ways to protect your ears in noisy environments. One sensible approach is to reduce the noise you are exposed to on a daily basis as much as possible. This includes loud restaurants, bars, and other public spaces where people are often vying to be heard. When buying new devices, appliances, or equipment, enquire about the sound output and how to minimize exposure.
If your job requires you to be around daily noise you can get the applicable PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) gear to protect your ears. Protective earplugs and earmuffs come with an NRR rating for the level of protection provided, and an NRR rating of 30 should be sought for perpetually noisy environments like construction and manufacturing.
Why is it so Important to Protect Your Ears?
Advanced hearing loss can introduce a range of complications to daily living including losing the ability to live an independent lifestyle.
The ability to comprehend speech and formulate an appropriate response is essential for human interaction. Hearing loss can make certain frequencies undetectable making it difficult to differentiate some consonant sounds from others. This often results in both parties being too polite to address the issue and poor communication is the consequence. Broken communication is typically frustrating for everyone involved which may lead to reduced contact and an increasing trend toward social isolation.
Sound is generally a big part of entertainment in the form of music, tv, trips to the cinema, church, or a community event. Hearing loss can detract considerably from the pleasure derived from these experiences. If you find the volume is continually increasing when listening to music or the tv, then it may be time to consult a hearing professional.
Potential threats are often heard before seen, and if hearing loss prevents this it can be sometimes too late by the time the threat enters the field of vision. Balanced hearing helps detect the direction a threat is coming from to avoid it before calamity ensues.
Research continues to show connections between hearing loss and cognitive decline. As hearing loss causes some frequencies to no longer be detectable, those connections to the brain become damaged. Maintaining cognitive performance depends on keeping the brain active and sharp. One of the simplest and most readily available ways to achieve this is through regular social interaction.
When communication becomes a struggle due to hearing loss, a wide variety of hearing aid devices are available to mend broken connections in the brain and improve overall hearing functionality. To avoid permanent damage, it is highly recommended to consult a hearing professional as soon as the problem is recognized.