Noise-induced hearing loss affects more people than you think: here’s how to avoid it

by Media Xpose

October is Audiology Awareness Month and to commemorate this important health care event, head of audiology at Spec-Savers, Bronwyn van Wyk, shares some information about noise-induced hearing loss and tips on how to avoid it.

People tend to think that hearing loss is something that old people suffer from, but the reality is that, according to the US Centres for Disease Control, an estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6 – 19 years, and 17% of adults aged 20 – 69 years have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise.

Hearing loss results from damage to structures and/or nerve fibres in the inner ear that respond to sound and unfortunately cannot be medically or surgically corrected. Everyday sounds don’t typically damage your hearing, but if you are often exposed to loud sounds, your risk for permanent damage grows over time. Regularly participating in activities that produce harmful sound levels, such as attending loud sporting events or music concerts, for example, using power tools or listening to music with in, on or over-ear headphones at high volumes can cause hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss can also result from a one-time exposure to a very loud sound, blast, or impulse.

The extent of damage to your hearing caused by noise depends on three factors:

  • Decibel level: How loud the sound is.

Sounds at or below 70 decibels (dBA) are generally considered safe. Any sound at or above 85 dBA is more likely to damage your hearing over time. Unfortunately, many devices that children use today produce noise levels much higher than 85 dBA. For example, music played through headphones at the highest volume can be 94 – 110 dBA.

  • Distance: How close you are to the source of the sound.

The risk of damage to your hearing obviously reduces the further you move away from the loud noise.

  • Time: The length of time you are exposed to the sound.

The impact of noise adds up over a lifetime and may not be noticeable at first, but if you are exposed to loud sounds on a regular basis, your risk for permanent damage increases over time. However, even a single but long-lasting or extremely loud event can cause damage.

With this in mind, we recommend a few sensible steps you can take to reduce your risk of noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Avoid or limit exposure to excessively loud sounds;
  • Turn down the volume of music systems, particularly head phones;
  • Move away from the source of loud sounds when possible;
  • Use hearing protection devices when it is not feasible to avoid exposure to loud sounds or reduce them to a safe level; and, most importantly
  • Seek hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist or other qualified professional, especially if there is concern about potential hearing loss. Much like a vision test, regular hearing tests allow your audiologist to track changes in your hearing and make recommendations as required. Each hearing test is a baseline for all the tests you have in the future, allowing your audiologist to instantly identify any changes or warning signs of hearing loss, including earwax build-up and noise-induced hearing loss.

Spec-Savers makes hearing care more affordable by offering free hearing screening to all South Africans over the age of 12 by a qualified audiologist, who will recommend further diagnostic testing and treatment if required. And, best of all, Spec-Savers’ Woza Woza deal means you can purchase a diagnostic hearing test and two Audioservice behind-the-ear hearing aids for just R7 999! So get your ears checked this Audiology Awareness Month, and use #AudiologyAwarenessMonth to share your experience on social media.

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