“It’s just another part of growing old.” –

Is typically how most discussions surrounding hearing loss begin.

And for the most part, it’s true- hearing loss is a perfectly normal part of the aging process. However, noise-induced hearing loss from excessive noise is still the primary cause of hearing loss in the United States. Approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 – 69 (26 million Americans) have hearing loss that may have been caused by exposure to noise at work or in leisure activities. Once permanent hearing damage occurs, it is just that: permanent and it cannot be reversed.

People tend to wait five to seven years between first experiencing symptoms and seeking help for their hearing loss. Hearing loss can be treated and managed through use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive technologies—under the care of an audiologist. Early detection and treatment is critical for both children and adults. In children, untreated hearing problems can lead to academic difficulties and social isolation. In adults, untreated hearing loss is associated with depression, anxiety, and other cognitive disorders. Researchers have also found a strong link between degree of hearing loss and risk of developing dementia.

So are you at risk?

Every time you’re exposed to sounds around 85 decibels (dB), you may be putting your hearing at risk. Most people know the usual suspects well: A gunshot (140 dB), an air raid siren (125 dB) or a loud rock concert (120 dB) can all cause hearing damage in less than seven minutes of exposure. However, most do not realize they are experiencing these dangerous decibels every day, sometimes in the most innocuous places.

For example, a baby’s cry can reach 115 dB and risk hearing damage in 15 minutes. Someone sitting in the driver’s seat of a snowmobile (110 dB) can run the risk of hearing damage in a half hour. Even driving a lawnmower (90 dB) or a motorcycle (95 dB) can run the risk of permanent hearing damage in 4 – 8 hours.

Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a single exposure to an intense sound or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over time. The louder the sound, the higher the decibels, the shorter amount of time it takes.

Education, prevention and early detection is key to combating the rise in noise-induced hearing loss. Because May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the sounds you encounter in your day-to-day. Do you experience any of the sounds above 85 dB below? If so, you may be putting your hearing at risk.

DB Infographic

The good news is, unlike aging, noise-induced hearing loss is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. Now that you can better recognize dangerous decibels and the hazards of loud noise, you can better protect your hearing.

If you feel you are experiencing dangerous decibels in your everyday life, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your exposure and risk of hearing loss. If your sound level at work, home or in the car exceeds 85 dB, reduce the noise level or wear hearing protection. Custom noise filters or solid earplugs can be easily worn to reduce your exposure to dangerous noise levels. Consult your audiologist for the best solution for your level of exposure and for activity-specific hearing protection. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot reduce the level of noise or wear proper hearing protection, move away from the noise and source of the sound.

It is also important to become a hearing role model for those around you. You should strive to model good hearing health habits for children and young adults. The World Health Organization recently stated that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of developing hearing loss due to unsafe use of personal audio devices. However, those younger than you are not the only ones who need a hearing health role model. Be aware of the signs of hearing loss in family, friends and colleagues. Early prevention is key to reducing the risk of psychosocial disorders or diminished relationships stemming from untreated hearing loss.

If you think you or someone you know has hearing loss or want to learn more about hearing protection personalized for your level of noise exposure, the next step is an easy one- see a local hearing healthcare professional. Call our office at 850-304-0205 or schedule an appointment online. Empower yourself with the information needed to take charge of your hearing health.