Why It's Critical to Protect Your Hearing and How to Do It
Updated: Mar 21
Hearing loss is a lifelong condition that cannot be reversed. As a result, hearing protection should become your new best friend.
You're rushing down the street when you come across a noisy construction site. You notice that all of the workers are wearing earmuffs; this is because hearing protection is required for those workers to avoid hearing loss or tinnitus.
The two most common causes of hearing loss are ageing and noise. You're unlikely to find the fountain of youth anytime soon, so there's not much you can do about ageing (though if you do begin to lose your hearing as a result of ageing, it's a good idea to consult a hearing care professional to improve your hearing). Noise, on the other hand, is where you can actually do something to protect your hearing.
Noise affects your hearing – but where’s the limit?
Every day, you are exposed to sound that qualifies as noise, even if you are not aware of it. That could be noise at school or work, in traffic, mowing your lawn, or even hearing your neighbor's dog bark. It all depends on the volume, which is difficult to predict.
A normal conversation averages 60 decibels. A jet plane can reach 140 dB during take-off. The problem arises when the excessively loud sound continues for an extended period of time or occurs repeatedly for an extended period of time.
Many countries have enacted noise limits for workers to be exposed to during the course of a working day in order to protect workers from hearing loss or impairment caused by the work environment. Typically, the noise level cannot exceed 85 decibels.
If you don't work in a noisy environment, situations to avoid include going to concerts, watching nearby fireworks, flying, or listening to music or podcasts with earphones at too high a volume.
What happens when noise affects my hearing?
The ear is a complex organ full of important sensory cells that aid in hearing and sound interpretation in the brain. If the sensory cells perceive the sound to be too loud, they may be damaged or die. The issue is that there is no way to bring them back to life. This could result in permanent hearing loss.
DID YOU KNOW?
Even the smallest, unnoticeable increase in decibels can have a significant impact on your hearing. A three-decibel increase in volume could double the risk of ear damage.
How do I protect my hearing?
You can't always be prepared for noise - traffic or road work may catch you off guard. Other times, you'll be aware that you're going to be exposed to a lot of noise. For example, if you're going to a concert, preparing for New Year's Eve fireworks, or mowing the lawn. This is when you should take extra precautions to protect your hearing.
Hearing protection comes in a variety of forms, but most of the time, simple earplugs will suffice to keep harmful noise at bay. If earplugs irritate your ears, you could try noise-cancelling headphones or earmuffs. They are larger, but also quite comfortable. If at all possible, take breaks from the action and choose seats (in planes or at concerts) that are not too close to the noise.