Noise exposure is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. Although hearing loss from noise exposure is preventable, as yet, no medicine or treatment has been conclusively proven to repair such a loss.
Just how much noise is too much? Well, normal conversation is estimated to measure 60 decibels. A whisper may be in the 20- to 30-decibel range. Some examples of much stronger noises, which may measure 90 decibels, are lawn mowers, motorcycles, and truck traffic. Prolonged exposure to the latter may gradually cause hearing loss.
At the upper end of the noise spectrum are gun blasts, which are in the 140-decibel range. Ear damage is possible from even brief exposure to such sounds, so hearing protection is always a necessity. It is also an excellent idea when facing prolonged exposure to any sounds above 85 decibels.
There are two types of hearing protection devices: earplugs and earmuffs. Earplugs are inserted into the outer ear canal. Earmuffs cover the whole outer ear in order to block the canal. Proper use of these devices can reduce noise by 15 to 30 decibels. Stuffing ordinary cotton or tissue into your ears is nowhere near as effective. It is critical, however, that the earplugs or earmuffs be properly fitted. Otherwise, these devices do little good.
Since hearing loss is usually a gradual and often painless process, you may not notice it for some time. If you have difficulty understanding what people are saying or their speech sounds like mumbling, particularly in noisy situations like parties, you may be experiencing the start of high-frequency hearing loss. If you feel a ringing or other sound in your ear, you may have "tinnitus," resulting from prolonged noise exposure. These symptoms may also signal nothing more than an ear infection or wax build-up. To be safe, however, you should see your doctor and rule out hearing damage.
Remember that although it is a common problem, hearing loss due to overexposure to noise need not happen to you. Avoid strong noises, use appropriate hearing protection, and seek medical advice if you have any hearing loss symptoms.
- The noise hurts your ears.
- The noise makes your ears ring.
- You are slightly deaf or sounds seem muffled after you leave a noisy place or hear a loud sound.
- You need to raise your voice to make yourself heard.
- You are not able to hear a person who is within two feet of you.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on hearing loss, you may contact an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat physician), a certified audiologist, and hearing support groups. The following are just a few of the groups that can provide you with more information:
Hearing Impaired Persons
2401 Sandhill Blvd., Suite #8
Port Charlotte, FL 33983
Tel. (941) 743-8347; TDD (941) 743-9286; fax (941) 743-9236
League for the Hard of Hearing
71 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010-4162
Tel. (917) 305-7700; TTY (917) 305-7999
Self Help for Hard of Hearing People
Charlotte Ears Tri-County Chapter
P.O. Box 3685, Port Charlotte, FL 33949-3685;
Tel. (941) 625-1782
Hector N. Hernandez, M.D., P.A.
Medicare Assignment Accepted - New Patients Welcome
21297-A Olean Boulevard Port Charlotte, Florida 33952 Phone: 941-764-0660
© 2004 AAO-HNS/AAO-HNSF
Please read our disclaimer. Any information provided on this Web site should not be considered medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with Dr. Hector N. Hernandez or other healthcare professional. If you have a medical problem, contact us for diagnosis and treatment.