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Friday, March 6, 2009

Protecting My Hearing

As mentioned in a previous post, my hearing has stayed the same since my initial diagnosis of hearing loss in 2006. While making the adjustment to life with hearing aids, I have been conscious of my desire to protect the hearing I have. Here's why:

According to the American Academy of Audiology, of the 36 million Americans with hearing loss, one in three were caused by noise exposure. Here are some common examples of everyday sounds with their loudness measured in decibels:
  • dishwashers 60 db

  • alarm clocks 80 db

  • hair dryers 90 db

  • blenders 90 db

  • lawn mowers 90 db

  • mp3 player at full volume 100 db

  • ambulance 130 db

Anything over 85 db represents a risk to your hearing if your exposure is prolonged enough.

How long is too long? I have not found a definitive answer to that. Most likely because it would vary from person to person. I wish I had the citation, but I do remember having read somewhere that once you already have a hearing loss, you can be more susceptible to further loss from noise exposure.

The American Academy of Audiology recommends three strategies for protecting your hearing.

  1. Walk Away From the Noise

  2. Turn Down the Volume

  3. Wear Ear Protection

I've been putting that into practice in my own life. At a recent sporting event, loud music was blaring while the basketball teams warmed up. When I noticed 20 minutes on the clock until game time, I decided to walk out of the gymnasium and wait in the entrance way for the game to start. It felt good to be so proactive about my hearing rather than enduring the noise in misery worrying that my hearing was being adversely affected.

I have also been trying to turn down the volume when possible on my cell phone and work phone. My normal habit was to keep them at full volume which was really too loud for those with strong, clear voices. It's better for me to keep the sound at a lower level and turn it up as needed.

At home, I have also been wearing ear protection. In the morning when I'm blowdrying my hair, I slip in foam earplugs first. Although my hair dryer claims to be a quiet model, it's plenty loud. Add that noise to the sound of the ceiling fan that comes on with the bathroom light and my ears get a beating. The earplugs make it bearable. I keep them in a sealed plastic baggie when I'm not using them. When I'm vacuuming or using an electric mixer or the blender in the kitchen, I wear over the ears protection (pictured above). They are terrific at reducing the volume. I also wear them outdoors when I'm using a shop vac to clean my car.

What do you do to protect your hearing?


jelly said...

Hey Sarah...that's good that you protect your hearing the way that you do.
That is a smart practice and people who are HOH should do things to protect what they have.
I really don't do much in this area...I'm deaf now, so I don't hear much of anything.

Good ideas!!

Valerie said...

I took steps to protect my hearing before my cis. My hearing loss is progressive so it did not matter what steps I took. One step I did take was to limit salt from my diet. Many years ago, my audiologist told me to do this. I'm not sure why, but I still practice it today.

Jonathan said...

In my schooling to become a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, I had to take an audiology for teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing course (what a mouthful!) and I remember learning that it's the 1-hour threshold that the damage of being exposed to loud sounds on a constant basis that becomes a threshold. I don't recall on what ground this was given so I cannot give you any data to back this up. However, maybe this is helpful

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks, Jonathan for that information. Maybe I'm being overcautious to protect my ears while vacuuming and blowdrying my hair (definitely not one hour tasks) but I'd rather err on the safe side because I wonder if there's a cumulative effect to shorter exposures on a daily basis.
I did not know you are a teacher. That's cool!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Val,
I did not know that about salt. I will have to consider reducing my intake. I'm sure that's been helpful to your overall health as well.
Thanks for sharing.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Kym,
Thanks for your comment. I'm thinking about writing a follow up post on protecting vision - something all of us can benefit from as we rely on our eyes so much when our hearing fades.

Anonymous said...

Hi ya how are you? I was quiet shocked regarding how loud hairdryers can be. And its all good advice on how we can protect our ears. Although I was shocked about the hairdryer, I shall still dry my hair as I usually do when I use it without protection. I've been drying my hair like that so far all my life, and my hearing test results now, to back a couple of years before has not changed much, to say I feel they have since last year.

But if I ever go anywhere where there's loud music, I do switch off my hearing aids. As if I ever went to a large concert I would get some ear protection but going to concerts I've never done yet.