Our ears are constantly bombarded with intense sounds from the moment we wake up until the moment our head hits the pillow. But according to audiologist Theo Saunders, we could be doing permanent damage to our hearing without even realizing it.
“Hearing loss isn’t as obvious as needing glasses. If you can’t see clearly, you notice it every day,” says Saunders. “But because it’s hard to know when your hearing levels are going down, especially as hearing loss is only noticeable at certain times, it becomes a problem that’s really easy to ignore.”
And it’s a bigger problem than you might think. In fact, in the United States right now, roughly 20%, or around 48 million people suffer from some level of hearing difficulty.
While unfortunately some kinds of hearing loss can’t be prevented, there is one common kind that can. Noise induced hearing loss is the damage done to our ears over time from loud noises.
According to Saunders, what we do every day, every week, every month, affects our hearing and most of the time we don’t even notice that our ears are suffering.
So it’s about time you started looking after yours. Here’s where to start:
There is almost nothing better than drowning out the subway sounds with a blast of your favorite tunes, but Saunders advises that we keep the volumes down to a level of 60% for just 60 minutes a day.
For live events, Saunders prefers ‘musicians ear plugs’ which attenuate the sound so it brings the volume down but also adds a certain amount of clarity to the music. Failing that you can just use foam earplugs, which you can buy from a drugstore.
A lot of noise-induced hearing loss that Saunders treats is in farmers and farm workers. It’s especially problematic if they use older-style tractors, which don’t have soundproofing, or firearms and explosives. Essentially hearing protection should be a given, even for short uses of machinery.
A lot of construction workers and home handymen (and women) forget that using power tools damages hearing; every single time they use them. That’s because hearing loss is cumulative so it’s not necessarily one event that will cause deafness; it’s a build up of damage over time. Even a quick use of a chainsaw or a angle grinder is dangerous.
A lot of motorcyclists trust that their helmets will protect them, and in most cases they do. But what is often forgotten is that helmets don’t protect your hearing and some of them actually create an environment that damages the ears with wind and sound. A safe bet for every ride is to wear foam earplugs, no matter what your helmet style.