You can lose some hearing after being exposed to loud noises for too long, for example by standing close to speakers at a nightclub. Or hearing can be damaged after a short burst of explosive noise, such as gunshots or fireworks.
If you work or frequently spend time in a noisy place or listen to loud music a lot, you could be losing your hearing without even realising it.
The best way to avoid developing noise-induced hearing loss is to keep away from loud noise as much as you can.
Here’s a guide to some typical noise levels, measured in decibels (dB). The higher the number, the louder the noise. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says noise levels above 105dB can damage your hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes each week. But lower levels, such as between 80dB and 90dB can also cause permanent damage if you’re exposed to them for hours every day. Find out some of the common noise levels around you which you may come across daily
- normal conversation: 60-65dB
- a busy street: 75-85dB
- lawn mower/heavy traffic: 85dB
- forklift truck: 90dB
- hand drill: 98dB
- heavy lorry about seven metres away: 95-100dB
- motorbikes: 100dB
- cinema: some films regularly top 100dB during big action scenes
- disco/nightclub/car horn: 110dB
- MP3 player on loud: 112dB
- chainsaw: 115-120dB
- rock concert/ambulance siren: 120dB
Ways to Protect Your Ears and Hearing Health
- Use earplugs around loud noises – Clubs, concerts, lawnmowers, chainsaws, and any other noises that force you to shout so the person next to you can hear your voice all create dangerous levels of sound. Earplugs are convenient and easy to obtain. You can even have a pair custom fitted for your ears by your local hearing healthcare provider.
- Turn the volume down – According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss from unsafe use of audio devices.If you like to enjoy music through headphones or earbuds, you can protect your ears by following the 60/60 rule. The suggestion is to listen with headphones at no more than 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. Earbuds are especially dangerous, as they fit directly next to the eardrum. If possible, opt for over-the-ear headphones.Don’t forget that any loud music, not just music played through headphones, presents a risk for noise-induced hearing loss. If you’re hosting a social event, keep the music at a volume which won’t force people to shout in order to hold a conversation
- Give your ears time to recover – If you are exposed to loud noises for a prolonged period of time, like at a concert or a bar, your ears need time to recover. If you can, step outside for five minutes every so often in order to let them rest.
- Stop using cotton swabs in your ears – It’s common for people to use cotton swabs to clean wax out of their ear canal, but this is definitely not advisable. A little bit of wax in your ears is not only normal, but it’s also important. The ears are self-cleaning organs, and wax stops dust and other harmful particles from entering the canal. Plus, inserting anything inside your ear canals risks damaging sensitive organs like your ear drum.
- Take medications only as directed – Certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, can sometimes contribute to hearing loss. Discuss medications with your doctor if you’re concerned that they’ll impact your hearing ability and take them only as directed.
- Keep your ears dry – Excess moisture can allow bacteria to enter and attack the ear canal. This can cause swimmer’s ear or other types of ear infections, which can be dangerous for your hearing ability. Be sure you gently towel-dry your ears after bathing or swimming. If you can feel water in the ear, tilt your head to the side and tug lightly on the ear lobe to coax the water out.
- Get regular checkups – Ask your primary care physician to incorporate hearing screenings into your regular checkups. Because hearing loss develops gradually, it’s also recommended that you have annual hearing consultations with a hearing healthcare professional. That way, you’ll be more likely to recognize signs of hearing loss and take action as soon as you do.
Taking action is important because untreated hearing loss, besides detracting from quality of life and the strength of relationships, has been linked to other health concerns like depression, dementia, and heart disease.