You Can Protect Your Hearing — Here’s How

You Can Protect Your Hearing — Here’s How

Think you’re too young to worry about hearing loss? You’re not. Things like listening to loud music, going to sporting events or working in a loud setting can harm your hearing. Take steps now to protect your hearing — once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.

About 40 million people have noise-related hearing loss from exposure to noise that is too loud for too long a time. And the growing popularity of earbuds and headphones isn’t helping.

The good news is that hearing loss from noise is preventable.

What Causes Hearing Loss?

About one-quarter of adults age 20 to 69 have noise-related hearing loss, or about 40 million people, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health

Damage to the hairs and nerve cells inside the ear cause hearing loss. Damage can come from long-term exposure to loud noises or from a short blast of noise like a gunshot. Some situations that can lead to hearing loss include:

  • Noisy work. Some work, like construction or factory work, comes with loud noise. That can cause damage inside the ear.
  • Noisy play. Recreational activities can bring their own loud noises, including listening to loud music, woodworking, shooting, snowmobiling and motorcycle riding. And the growing popularity of earbuds and headphones means children and young people are at risk.

In addition to loud noise, causes of hearing loss include:

  • Aging and heredity. Inner ear parts break down over time. And your genes may make you more vulnerable to ear damage from aging or loud sounds.
  • Some medications. Some drugs, such as specific antibiotics and chemo medicines, can damage the inner ear. Temporary effects on your hearing, like ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss, can happen from high doses of aspirin or other pain relievers, malaria drugs, and some diuretics.
  • Some illnesses. A high fever that comes with some illnesses, like meningitis, can damage the inner ear.
Prevent Hearing Loss with Protection

Avoiding high risk situations and using ear protection are the keys to preventing hearing loss from noise.

Five ways to start protecting your hearing:

  • Skip loud places and noisy activities whenever possible.
  • Always use hearing protection when you’re exposed to loud noise.
  • Turn the volume down when listening to music or any time you’re wearing headphones.
  • If you unexpectedly encounter loud noise, move away from it.
  • If you can’t avoid being in a noisy place, plan breaks from the noise.

How much noise affects your hearing depends on how loud it is and how long it lasts. Avoiding noisy situations is best. If you can’t, using hearing protection can help. Find some good ear plugs or over-the-ear hearing protection.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you think you may already have some hearing loss, check these 10 Signs of Hearing Loss.   Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms or if trouble hearing is causing problems in your life. Your doctor or a hearing specialist may be able to help.

How Loud Is Too Loud?

In general, if you need to shout to be heard, it’s too loud. Find out how loud different sounds are with this audio infographic from the CDC. 

audio infographic thumbnail 

Sources: Noise-Induced Hearing Loss National Institutes of Health, 2017; How Do I Prevent Hearing Loss From Loud Noises,   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2018; How Do I Know if I Have Hearing Loss Caused by Loud Noise?,   CDC, 2018; 5 Ways to Reduce Hearing Damage,   Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan, 2020; Hearing Loss,   Mayo Clinic, 2019
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