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Can You Hear Me?
Blame it on your IPod, your new surround-sound speakers, or your loud neighbors but Americans are exposed to much higher noise levels than ever before. “Noise-induced hearing loss,” is usually caused by exposure to excessively loud sounds and cannot be medically or surgically corrected.
Noise-induced hearing loss can result from a one-time exposure to a very loud sound (at or above 120 decibels) or by listening to loud sounds (at or above 85 decibels) over an extended period. Basically, the louder the blast, the shorter the time period before hearing damage occurs.
It’s critical to understand the signs of hearing loss because they can be gradual, a person might not notice or might ignore symptoms of hearing loss until more noticeable. Noticeable signs of hearing loss can include:
- Muffled or distorted hearing
- Difficulty hearing sounds such as birds singing, crickets chirping, alarm clocks, watch alarms, telephones, or doorbells
- Difficulty understanding speech during telephone conversations or while participating in group conversations
- Pain or ringing in the ears (tinnitus) after exposure to excessively loud sounds
Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sound is preventable. Here is how you can reduce the risk associated with some types of hearing loss:
- Adopt behaviors to protect their hearing:
- Avoid or limit exposure to excessively loud sounds
- Turn down the volume of music systems
- 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 level5
- Seek hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist or other qualified professional
Knowing that hearing loss induced by noise is preventable is the first step to doing something to reduce your risk.