Protecting Your Hearing
When I think of autumn, I think about the changing leaves, football games, and bonfires. The cooler temperatures and fun activities make autumn a favorite season for many people. However, there are occupational and recreational fall-related activities that can be damaging to your hearing.
Football games: Imagine yourself in a packed stadium, surrounded by fellow fans yelling and cheering to show support for your favorite football team. Football stadiums often encourage fans to get loud and make noise to enhance the game experience. But how loud is too loud? An article from NPR in 2014 reported that the noise in NFL stadiums averages around 80 to 90 decibels. Exposure to the loud levels at games may cause a temporary hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Repeated noise exposure can have a cumulative effect, which can potentially cause permanent changes to your hearing.
Hunting: According to one study by Starkey, the sound of a gunshot can range from 140 to 190 decibels. Exposure to these loud sounds can cause immediate and permanent damage to your hearing. Hearing protection should always be worn when using firearms. There are even products available not only to reduce the dangerous loud sounds but also to amplify natural, environmental sounds to improve your hunting experience.
Leaf blowers: While the changing colors of the trees are pretty to look at, cleaning up the piles of fallen leaves sometimes seems like an ongoing chore. Leaf blowers make the cleanup a lot easier, but you risk exposure to loud sounds. It is best to wear hearing protection when using this equipment.
Protection is Easy
Noise-induced hearing loss is the only type of hearing loss that is preventable. It is important to use hearing protection when you are around loud noises. Earmuffs and foam earplugs can be found at home improvement and sporting good stores. Some audiology practices also offer custom-made hearing protection designed from a mold of your ear to ensure a proper fit. If you cannot reduce the noise with hearing protection, limit or remove yourself from the harmful environment. Damage from noise exposure can often be gradual, so hearing loss may not be noticeable immediately. Signs of hearing loss from noise exposure include distorted or muffled sounds, difficulty understanding speech, and tinnitus.
Finally, consider having annual hearing tests if you are around noise. An appointment can be scheduled for an evaluation and discussion on follow-up care. Discuss your concerns with your audiologist or physician — we are here to help!