How To Protect Your Hearing

how to protect your hearingNoise pollution!

Though we may be used to the sounds of everyday life, yet over time, they may take their toll on our hearing and we may lose the capacity to hear at normal levels. But when the TV prevents you from sleeping or traffic sounds enter your bedroom giving you a headache, it’s no longer noise but noise pollution. This excessive noise that causes a disruption in our daily lives can become a permanent feature with us, sadly.

Our environment makes it difficult for us to escape city noise. The honking of cars, the sound of drilling machines or the sound of a plane flying overhead are all sounds we have been accustomed to. But clearly, it is the absence of urban planning that has raised the levels of such unwanted sounds. For this reason, it is important to understand noise pollution and curb it immediately.

Why noise pollution happens

There are several causes of noise pollution:

  1. Industrialization: Industries that use equipment that crank up a lot of noise are the chief producers of noise. Besides, grinding mills, exhaust fans, compressors and generators also add to the noise pollution.
  2. Lack of proper urban planning: This is a huge problem in developing countries where space is a constraint. Large families living in small spaces, fighting over daily family issues, cause noise pollution that disrupts the peace of society.
  3. Marriages, parties, etc: At these events, you can expect the maximum of unwanted noise. With music played at full volume and dancing, people in the neighbourhood are highly disturbed and often cannot sleep.
  4. Modes of transport: Areas of high traffic on the roads, or planes flying over homes, underground trains making noise affect our hearing in the long-term.
  5. Construction sites: Construction-related activities like mining, building dams, bridges, flyovers, roads, etc, are done with equipment that generates a lot of noise and can hamper the hearing of people living close to these sites.
  6. Chores around the house: Convenience products that we use at home like mixer-grinders, pressure cookers, washing machines, etc add to the noise that we are already accustomed to hearing.

Effects of noise pollution

These forms of noise pollution may be commonplace for us, but over the years, they have adverse effects on our health in many ways, as outlined below. Such noises lead to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), whose ill-effects are:

  1. Hearing loss: The sounds that our ears aren’t designed to filter cause problems within us. Though our ears are built to take a certain level of sounds without being damaged, noises made by horns, machinery, planes and traffic can sometimes be too loud for us to bear and outside our normal hearing range. Overexposure or long exposure to such sounds can lead to damaged eardrums and deafness, apart from making us less sound-sensitive.

Another related problem that arises out of this is Tinnitus, caused due to long exposure to noise. This is identified by a ringing in one ear only, or a roaring sound in both ears or in the head. Though tinnitus can go down in time, it can also be permanent or dot a person’s life. People often suffer from tinnitus in one ear and hearing loss in one or both ears.

  1. Health issues: Noise from construction sites and offices can impact our psychological health, resulting in disturbed sleep, aggressive behaviour, stress, hypertension and fatigue, which can turn chronic in later life.
  2. Sleep-related issues: With loud noise hitting your eardrums, you can lose precious sleep every night, causing fatigue and low productivity at work.
  3. Cardiovascular issues: High intensity noise can lead to heart problems, stress and blood pressure rising. An elevated heart rate also tends to disrupt normal flow of blood.
  4. Difficulty in conversing: With intense noise around you, it’s often difficult for two people to speak freely, often leading to misunderstanding each other. This may result in a headache and disturbed emotional balance.

How to tell if noise is dangerous

If noise damages your hearing ability when you’re at arm’s length and need to shout to be heard, then it’s dangerous. If this noise ends up making your ears ring or hurts them, your hearing could be impaired for the next few hours.

Safe decibels for animals, babies and adults

While it is true that dogs have a higher hearing ability than humans, a safe decibel range for them depends largely on their age and breed. Still, it is known that they can hear between 67 Hz and 45 kHz. On the other hand, we can hear at 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. A safe decibel level for babies is generally fixed at 80 decibels. Any higher intensity sounds than this can cause damage to the infant. Certain other animals like bats and dolphins also hear frequencies going up to 100 kHz. Elephants can hear sounds even at 14Hz–16 Hz, while whales can hear sounds in the ocean as low as 7 Hz.

How to protect your hearing

By wearing hearing protectors, you can protect your hearing when in a highly noisy environment. Before you start using power tools, firearms, yard equipment or any other tools that make a lot of noise, remember to wear your hearing protectors. motorcycle or snowmobile. Hearing protectors come in two forms: earplugs and earmuffs.

Ear plugs

These hearing protectors are placed inside the external ear canal. Earplugs are small inserts that fit into the outer ear canal. To wear them correctly, you should ensure that they are fitted snugly so that the entire ear canal’s circumference is entirely blocked. If you don’t do this, or if the ear plugs are dirty or worn out, they may not seal perfectly and cause the ear canal to be irritated.

You can choose from a variety of shapes and sizes of plugs to fit your ear canals, besides getting them customized to your ears. They come in two forms–premolded or moldable. If you find it difficult to keep them inside your ears, you can attach them to a headband.

Advantages of ear plugs: These protectors are produced in bulk or can also be customized to fit the ear. They can be had either in the disposable form or reusable. They are easy to insert, relatively inexpensive compared to ear muffs, and can be worn comfortably even in humid temperatures. For maximum protection, they should be inserted well.

Ear muffs

These hearing protectors are made of soothing sound material and soft ear cushions that fit nicely around the ear and the ear’s hard external cups. A headband holds these together. Ear muffs sit on the entire area of the outer ear so that an air seal is formed, thereby blocking the entire ear canal circumference. A flexible band holds them in place. However, if you wear spectacles or have long hair over your ears, ear muffs won’t seal well over the area because the headband tension has to be perfect to hold the ear pieces in place.

Advantages of muffs: These are designed so that anyone can wear them easily. They are visible at a distance so that their use can be easily monitored. They cannot be lost or misplaced easily. Even if you suffer a ear infection, you can continue to wear them.

How to prevent hearing loss

You needn’t suffer from all kinds of noise impinging in your world–there are ways of protecting your hearing, both in the long- and short-term. Here are a few tried and tested ways by which you can do this:

  1. Go in for a hearing test: Have a baseline hearing test done and check it every year to see if it records any hearing loss. In case there is, there are ways of reducing its progression.
  2. Invest in ear plugs today: It’s easy and inexpensive to invest in a pair of foam ear plugs. Besides, you can easily carry them in your pocket, wallet or purse or in your travel luggage. Let your family and friends know that you use them whenever you’re exposed to high levels of noise so that they can turn down the music or speak softly when they see you wear them. Ear plugs are inexpensive and easy to find at any pharmacy and so are ear muffs, so take preventative steps while you can.
  3. Use headphones but judiciously: According to reports, one out of every five teenagers suffers hearing loss, chiefly because of listening to music through headphones and ear buds at loud decibels. To correct this and to prevent any further hearing damage, it’s best to listen to music on these devices for not more than 60% of the maximum volume on these devices for about an hour each day. By using non-cancelling headphones, you can prevent any further hearing damage.  
  4. Are your ears wax-free? Hearing loss could also be due to a block of wax in your ear that lies uncleared. This is particularly true of those who wear hearing protectors. Due to the lack of ventilation in their ears, wax tends to build up here. If you also clean your ears with cotton buds, you may leave some residual cotton behind, which could contribute to clogging the ear. A visit to your doctor should repair the problem.

Conclusion

Find the nearest hearing healthcare professional to you and discuss your problems with him today and get info on how to protect your hearing.

References:

http://www.entnet.org/content/noise-and-hearing-protection

http://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52694-How-loud-is-too-loud

http://www.consumerreports.org/conditions-treatments/tips-for-preventing-hearing-loss/

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