Exposure to excessive noise can have a permanent and significant impact on your hearing, so effective ear protection is vital. While consistently loud noise can be harmful to your hearing function, even minimal exposure to excessively loud noise could cause irreparable damage to your hearing. 

Although loud noise can cause hearing loss, it can also be responsible for tinnitus. Characterized by ringing, buzzing, whooshing or hissing, tinnitus sufferers can hear sounds, even when they’re not produced externally. While some people can ‘hear’ humming, ringing and whooshing sounds intermittently because of tinnitus, others experience constant symptoms. 

Due to the severity of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, it’s vital to protect your hearing. Whether you work in a noisy environment or spend time at loud gigs and concerts, taking steps to mitigate hearing loss and noise-induced tinnitus is essential.

When you’re choosing hearing protection, it’s important to consider the type of noise you’ll be exposed to, as well as the level of noise you may experience. With the right advice from an audiologist, you can find the most effective hearing protection for any environment.

What type of noise causes hearing loss?

Many people assume that only very, very loud noises can cause permanent hearing damage, but this isn’t true at all. The level of the sound, as well as the amount of exposure, can cause hearing loss, and you’d be surprised at quickly it can happen.

Any noise which exceeds 85 decibels can cause permanent damage to your hearing if you’re exposed to it for around eight hours or longer. An average conversation is held at around 60 decibels, so this isn’t a particularly high level of noise. However, being exposed to it consistently is likely to cause some form of hearing loss. 

It’s estimated that hearing loss occurs in half the time every time there is an increase of three decibels in sound volume. If a noise level of 85 decibels can cause hearing loss in eight hours, this means that a noise level of 88 decibels could cause hearing damage in four hours and 91 decibels could cause hearing loss in just two hours. 

With this in mind, it’s easy to see how and why so many people experience noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. 

Workplace noise and hearing loss

Many people who experience noise-induced hearing loss do so because they’ve been exposed to loud noises at work. If you work full-time in a noisy environment, for example, you could easily spend over eight hours a day being exposed to noises exceeding 85 decibels, and it’s highly likely you’d experience hearing damage as a result. 

An average factory functions at around 110 decibels, for example, which means you could sustain hearing damage in around 15 minutes if you don’t wear appropriate hearing protection. Alternatively, using a power drill is likely to register at about 98 decibels, which could cause hearing loss within 30 minutes.

Remember – your hearing isn’t just affected by what you’re doing. Even standing near to someone using a power saw could expose you to a level of noise which could cause hearing damage within the space of two minutes. 

Due to the risks of noise-induced hearing loss in the workplace, it’s essential to wear effective hearing protection. Any time you’re exposed to a noise level of 85 decibels or higher, professional-grade hearing protection should be worn.

Preventing noise-induced hearing loss

Of course, it isn’t just in the workplace that noise-induced hearing loss can occur. Any environment could cause the same type of damage, depending on the level of noise and the amount of exposure.

Fortunately, hearing protection can effectively prevent noise-induced hearing loss and related conditions, such as tinnitus. To ensure you’re getting the best protection, however, you’ll need to ensure that you’re using the right type of hearing protection and that it fits well.

In-ear protectors can be highly effective, for example, but if they don’t fit well, noise can ‘leak’ in and still cause damage to your hearing. When you need to use hearing protection, it’s a good idea to seek specialist advice and have the equipment properly fitted.

An experienced audiologist can advise whether in-ear protectors, ear defenders, or an alternative form of hearing protection will be most effective and ensure that you get the right fit for your ears. 

To learn more about the benefits of hearing protection, contact Salyer Hearing Center now at Sylva by calling 828-586-7474, Franklin at 828-524-5599 or Murphy at 828-835-1014.