A permanent condition in a “temporary” culture
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center
Hearing loss. You think it inflicts only elderly people, right? Think again. Recent research reveals that more young people are developing permanent hearing loss, and they may not even realize it. According to the CDC, 20% of people aged 20-29 already have noise-induced hearing loss.
Why is this such a concern? Because, unlike many other ailments, hearing loss is permanent. Over time, a loss of hearing in someone young will accumulate and exacerbate that person’s eventual age-related hearing loss. Experts predict hearing-related issues will be even more pronounced for the current younger generation when they reach retirement age.
Which noises cause hearing loss? Anything over 85 decibels for an extended period of time, or much louder and shorter bursts of noise for a shorter period of time, are both damaging.
Which noises are higher than 85 decibels? According to a Purdue University Website:
- Garbage disposals
- Freight trains (50 feet away)
- Diesel trucks traveling at 40mph (50 feet away)
- Food blenders
In the 90 to 110 decibel category:
- Jet planes taking off (at 1,000 feet)
- Lawn mowers
- Motorcycles (at 25 feet)
- Outboard motors
- Car horns (at 3 feet)
- Live rock music
- Public bathroom hand dryers
At 150 decibels, such as what occurs at 80 feet away from a jet taking off, your eardrums will rupture.
Wearing ear buds, as many people do, can intensify noise because they are put directly into the ear canal. This can raise noise levels by nine decibels. At maximum volume, ear buds can reach 105 decibels!
What can you do to prevent hearing loss?
- When listening to electronic devices, wear “noise-canceling” headphones that cover the whole ear. Ear buds (which sit in the ear canal) tend to let other sounds in, thus making it necessary to turn up the volume.
- If you insist on wearing ear buds, invest in custom ear buds that fit your ears. They have a tighter fit, and you won’t have to turn up the volume to hear with them.
- Follow the 60/60 Rule: Limit your ear-bud/ear-phone listening to under 60 minutes per day, and keep the volume under 60 percent.
- Wear ear plugs at concerts.
- Plug your ears with your fingers when an ambulance passes, during traditional gun salutes, or when the fire trucks blast their sirens at parades.
- Don’t sit right under the annual fireworks without ear protection.
- Wear ear protection when you know you will be exposed to loud noises for long periods of time, such as mowing the lawn.
- Use paper towels in public bathrooms instead of the hand dryers.
- In traffic, keep the windows rolled up.
- Get your ears tested to find your baseline. Start taking precautions from now on.
Here’s your takeaway: There are many health conditions that are temporary and improvable by changing your lifestyle or by taking medicine. But, hearing isn’t one of them. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
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