Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a public health issue that affects millions of people every year. It is an equal opportunity problem, affecting all ages.
It doesn’t distinguish between skin color, sexual orientation, rich or poor. Because we live in the modern world, we are exposed (over-exposed?) to loud sounds in every facet of our lives-work, leisure, travel, etc.
Approximately 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels. Over 15% of teens (12-19 y/o) reported hearing loss due to exposure to loud sound.
Personally, I love to see live music at the Fillmore, the Fox, or the new U.C. Theater here in Berkeley, and I often ride on BART where noise levels can reach 100 decibels-equivalent to operating a jackhammer!
The first step to addressing the issue is identifying where you may be putting yourself in harm’s way.
Does your job expose you to dangerous levels of noise? Are you a musician or, like me, love to see live music? Do you have loud hobbies-wood working, cars/motorcycles, hunting?
“If I’m being bombarded by sound, what can I do about it?”
As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Seek and out and consistently wear hearing protection.
Hearing protection devices, or HPDs, come in different forms, with some specifically designed for particular needs.
For example, when I go to see live music, I wear what are commonly called “musicians’ earplugs”. These are custom-molded earplugs with a filter that reduces the volume evenly across the frequency spectrum so that the overall music experience is not compromised.
I hear the music the way it is intended to be heard, just safer!
For hunters, there are both passive and electronic HPDs allowing the user to hear normally until the weapon is discharged. Bottom line, we always want to prevent hearing loss from happening, rather than having to treat it after the fact.
Once damaged, our auditory system, from the inner ear (cochlea) to the brain, never works as well as it did when it was healthy.
Whether you are a contractor, a musician/music lover, or a mechanic, don’t wait to begin protecting your ears. NIHL is preventable.
But even if you have already been exposed to dangerously loud sound levels (I’m raising my hand), you need to know that it is never to late to begin protecting your ears.
If you are concerned about your hearing, see a licensed audiologist to get your hearing tested and consult with them about ways to protect your hearing and treat any hearing deficit.