to you by the House Ear Institute (HEI) -- educating the public on
noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)
estimated 32.5 million people in the United States have experienced a hearing
loss; and that figure is up by a staggering 2.5 million from just a few years
ago. Exposure to excessive noises, while extremely preventable, still causes
approximately 30 percent of all hearing loss.
"Exposure to noise damages the microscopic hair cells found in the inner
ear, which play a critical role in our ability to hear," said Dr. Jose
Fayad, House Ear Clinic associate. "The damage can be from a brief but
intense noise, but is most often caused by regular exposure to excessive sound
over the course of several years."How loud is too loud?
exposure even wearing headphones or ear buds can be dangerous too if the volume
is too loud. Noise-induced hearing loss
is usually painless, progressive, and always permanent; but it is 100 percent
Here are the top five ways to avoid
your exposure time to sounds over 85 dB and take periodic 15-minute
"quiet" breaks. Although the maximum time to safely be exposed to
85 dB is 8 hours, the maximum time to safely be exposed to 100 dB is only 15
minutes. See pie-chart for more information.
hazardous sound environments. If you have to raise your voice to be heard,
you are in a potentially hazardous environment for your hearing. This
includes loud music performances, operating power tools and driving with the
windows down at high speeds.
you can't get away from an extreme sound environment, wear hearing
protection, such as foam, silicone or pre-molded earplugs, earmuffs or custom
earplugs. Look for products with noise-reduction ratings (NRR) of at least
9dB. Most products provide a NRR of 22dB or greater. To hear music and
conversation clearly, look for high fidelity hearing protection. They will reduce
all sound frequencies equally, and can often make listening to music more
enjoyable than without any protection. Shooter's plugs combined with earmuffs
should be used for hunting and target practice. All can be found over the
counter at your local drugstore or sporting goods shop
away from on-stage monitors or amplifiers. Position yourself so you are not
directly in front of the speaker while performing or listening. Musicians
should avoid practicing at performance levels when possible.
suspect hearing loss or notice sudden changes in your hearing or have ear
pain, see an otolaryngologist (ENT) or otologist. Also, have your hearing
tested by a licensed audiologist. Common hearing tests include the pure tone
threshold test, the otoacoustic emissions ("OAE") test, speech
audiometry and the Hearing in Noise Test ("HINT"), which was
developed by HEI scientists to assess how well you can hear speech in real
world situations, where background noise is present.
For more information,
visit House Ear Institute's Sound Partners® program at www.hei.org or its new site for teens and young
adults at http://www.earbud.org where visitors can request a free pair of earplugs.
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