Unfortunately, we often don’t have much control over developing hearing loss. A serious illness, an accident, or the aging process can all cause or contribute to the condition regardless of how careful we are to take preventative measures. However, unlike other sources of hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be prevented if you recognize the risks and take reasonable precautions.

Proactive steps to avoid hearing loss

Not all loss of hearing is caused by external noise, but may still be preventable. Hearing loss that occurs in utero or infancy may be difficult to prevent, but not impossible. Here are a few common sense suggestions:

  • Taking extra care to make sure your vaccinations are up to date in advance of getting pregnant and avoiding exposure to infectious diseases while pregnant can help reduce your child’s risk of hearing-related birth defects.
  • Avoiding all alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, and medications not specifically approved by your OB/GYN is another.
  • Feeding babies partially or completely sitting up is the best way to avoid ear infections.

Protecting your hearing at work and play

Not sure if you should be concerned about your workplace? If you have ringing in your ears or find it difficult to hear a coworker talking two feet away, you already have cause for concern.

If you are at high risk of exposure to 85 decibels (dB) or more in the workplace, you should follow the advice offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)[1]:

  • Adhere to the time/exposure limits set by your employer, which is a factor of how much time per 8 hour shift you can safely be exposed to 85 dB or more.
  • Use earplugs or other safety gear on the job. Work environments are mandated to provide this equipment to those working in excessively noisy environments.
  • Take advantage of any hearing conservation programs offered by your job, such as free annual hearing exams and training.

Similar advice applies to recreational activities that expose you to excessive noise. Wear a hearing protective device when you go to the gun range, for example, or invest in a pair of earplugs before you attend your next rock concert. If you’re out dancing at a nightclub, take breaks from the dance floor to step outside for some air—and some quiet.

I’ve got the music (too far) in me

With the advent of MP3 players, portable music devices have become standard accessories for many people, particularly teenagers. Think about how many times you have heard music seeping from the ear buds of someone else’s so-called personal listening device. Could you make out the words to the song? If so, then it was far too loud for safety. Now ask yourself, honestly—how high do you crank the volume of your player?

The good news is you don’t have to give up your tunes to protect your hearing. Simply follow a few common sense tips and you can have your music—and your hearing, too:

  • Dial the volume down to no more than 70 percent of its maximum. To protect their ears, you can utilize password-protected settings on most devices to keep your children from raising the volume above that level.
  • Reduce the amount of time you listen to your device at a stretch. A 2006 study indicated that an average person could listen to their player for 4.6 hours per day at 70 percent volume without risking their hearing.[2]
  • Consider wearing over-the-ear headphones instead of ear buds. Noise cancelling headphones are a particularly good choice, in that they reduce ambient noise, thus reducing your need to raise the volume of your music in order to override outside sounds.

Get your hearing tested now

When it comes to NIHL in particular, you can protect the hearing you have—or at least the hearing you have left. Seek advice from a hearing care professional by calling 855-355-9064 or schedule an appointment online today.

[1] Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/.

[2] University of Colorado at Boulder and Children’s Hospital Boston. http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2009/02/18/new-ipod-listening-study-shows-surprising-behavior-teens.