We use our ears every day to communicate with, interpret, and experience the world around us. Noise-induced hearing loss can have a serious impact on the way we live, which is why it’s important to wear hearing protection when you can. Despite the risks of hearing loss, many Americans forgo safe hearing protection in spaces with loud noises like concerts, shooting ranges, or clubs. According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion people worldwide are at increased risk of noise-induced hearing loss, most of which can be prevented with safe listening practices. The good news is that small changes to your listening routine can have a big impact on your hearing later on.
Making sure your ears are protected in noisy environments is crucial for protecting your hearing. Any sound over 80 decibels runs the risk of impacting your hearing. As a general rule of thumb, if your environment is too loud to have a conversation with the person three feet away from you without raising your voice or leaning close to their ears, you’re probably in an environment that would require hearing protection. Motorcycles, lawnmowers, concerts, loud music in the car, or even construction noise can run the risk of damaging your hearing. It only takes 15 minutes of time in an environment with a loud enough noise volume for your hearing to be impacted.
If you know you’re going to be in a noise-heavy environment, it’s a good idea to wear some form of hearing protection. Contrary to popular belief, hearing protection doesn’t cancel out the sound around you; instead, it merely reduces the intensity of the sound before it can enter your auditory system. Some of the most common forms of hearing protection include ear muffs and ear plugs. When you’re looking for hearing protection, try to find brands with a high noise-reduction rating (NRR). These devices won’t remove all sound, but they will ensure your ears won’t be in danger of hearing loss down the road.
“Don’t think in the short term, think in the long term,” said ENT Pediatric and Adult Doctor of Audiology, Skylar Poland of TPMG Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialists in Suffolk, Newport News, and Williamsburg. While it may seem counterintuitive to wear earplugs at a concert, wearing hearing protection now might save your ears for concerts later in life. Hearing protection is not designed to cancel out all sound, but rather to reduce the intensity of the hazardous noise so that it does not affect your ears as greatly.
So how do you know when your hearing has been damaged due to noise? Some people with noise-induced hearing loss experience tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, which is often caused by exposure to loud noises. Hearing loss down the road looks different depending on the person. For some, it may look like needing constant repetition from others during conversation and for others, it may look like turning the volume on the TV up much louder than normal.
If you suspect you have hearing loss, the dedicated and experienced hearing professionals with TPMG ENT will help you navigate comprehensive diagnostic hearing evaluations, hearing aid evaluations, hearing aid fittings, and more. At TPMG ENT, we can also provide you with custom-fit hearing protection to fit your unique needs. Musicians, hunters (who regularly shoot loud weapons), and those who ride motorcycles all have unique hearing needs. Working with a special manufacturer, we can create hearing protection that can fit underneath a motorcycle helmet or rest comfortably in your ears while you sleep.
While it may seem silly in the moment, wearing hearing protection now can significantly improve your hearing later in life. Consider bringing earplugs to your next concert and save your experience for another concert 10 years later!
About Skylar Poland, AuD, CCC-A
Skylar G. Poland, AuD, CCC-A is an ENT Pediatric and Adult Doctor of audiology with TPMG Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialists. She treats patients aged seven months to adults for sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Her special medical interests include pediatric hearing and hearing disorders, craniofacial disorders impacting hearing, pathology-related hearing losses, and telepractice.
Dr. Poland treats pediatric and adult patients at TPMG Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialists in Suffolk, Newport News, and Williamsburg.