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Protecting Your Ears Through the Years — What is sound induced hearing loss and what you can do to protect your hearing?


By, Kevin Kock, Au.D. Audiology Consultants

Did you know the two leading causes of hearing loss are loud noise and aging? As a licensed audiologist, I like to remind my patients that only one of these things are preventable (unfortunately it is not aging!). Often, many of my patients report that they wish they took steps to protect their hearing before the damage occurred.

Noise induced hearing loss occurs when the vibrational energy of loud sound damages your hearing system. This type of hearing loss can occur slowly over time or very suddenly. How quickly the hearing loss progresses depends on how loud the sound is. As a rule of thumb, if the sound is louder than the loss of hearing increases quickly and more severely. While some sounds like the television, household appliances, and normal conversations are safe. Others like power tools, lawn equipment, machinery, and guns are not safe for hearing. While loud sounds can be scientifically measured, a good rule of thumb is that if you have to shout to someone an arm’s length away to hear, the sound is likely too loud. After loud sound exposure, someone might notice ringing in their ears (tinnitus), muffled speech, a feeling of fullness in ears, and even reduced pitch awareness.

One common misconception is that hearing loss is only for “old” people. In fact, hearing loss from loud sounds may impact up to 17 percent of teenagers and up to 24 percent of adults under age 70 (CDC data). Other people might say that it is “too late” to make changes to protect your ears. My response is always, “your hearing today is likely the best hearing you have and will ever have so it is worth protecting.” Not only does loud sound reduce the softest level you can hear, but it can also diminish how well you understand words even if they are at a loud enough level. So, take some steps to reduce your exposure and protect your ears for the long run!

There are three easy steps you can do to reduce hearing loss caused by loud sounds:

  1. Turn it down!. By understanding what sounds are too loud, you might be able to reduce its volume. For example, turning down the music.
  2. Walk away! Did you know increasing the distance from the loud sound can reduce your exposure?
  3. Wear hearing protection. If you can’t avoid the sound, wear hearing protection. A helpful tip is to put hearing protection near power tools to remind you to wear them. Note, some hearing protection works differently than others and each ear is unique. Consider talking to an audiologist about what hearing protection is right for you.

Consider testing your hearing. If you are around loud sounds, testing and monitoring your hearing can be important to track changes over time.. If you would like to know more or feel that you are noticing any ringing in your ears, decrease in word understanding, or asking for frequent repetition, talk to an audiologist.

Now is a great time to have your hearing checked! Audiology Consultants’ offices are located at 2215 East 52nd St., #2, Davenport, IA: 563-355-7712; 600 Valley View Dr., Moline, IL: 309-517-3889; Unity Point Clinic, 3426 North Port Dr., #500, Muscatine, IL: 563-264-9406; or Hammond Henry Hospital, 600 College Ave., Geneseo, IL: 309-944-9181