Most people with hearing loss in Chelmsford or Nashua can blame one of two factors: aging and noise. The latter is actually the most common cause of hearing loss in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. But unlike aging, there’s something you can do to prevent this!
How Noise Affects Hearing
There’s a common misconception that most people with a hearing impairment are over the age of 65, but real-life statistics show otherwise. Only about one-third of hearing loss patients fit this demographic. About 15 percent of people ages 20-69 develop hearing loss in Chelmsford as a result of excess noise exposure.
When sounds exceed 85 decibels (dB), the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for transmitting signals to the brain for processing can become damaged. Once these sensory cells are destroyed, they do not grow back and cannot be repaired. The louder the sound, the less safe exposure time you have before irreversible hearing loss occurs. This is called noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL for short.
Sounds that measure 85 dB – roughly equivalent to traffic levels in Chelmsford and Nashua – can cause hearing damage after about eight hours. At 100 dB, damage can occur in as little as 15 minutes.
The effects of hearing loss are widespread. Initially you’ll have difficulty understanding high frequencies, which is why most people report trouble with women’s and children’s voices in the earliest stages of their condition. Over time, the hearing impairment grows progressively worse; left untreated, it can cause a number of physical, social and psychological side effects, including stress, loneliness, withdrawal, depression, concentration difficulties, memory loss, dementia, diabetes, kidney disease and an increased risk of suffering from a fall.
Unfortunately, there is no escaping noise; it’s an ever-present component of our daily lives. 30 to 50 million Americans are exposed to hazardous sound levels every day, a number that includes almost half of all teens and young adults aged 12-35 in Chelmsford. The most common culprits are music, sporting events and motorized vehicles.
Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
The following tips will help reduce the likelihood that you will develop NIHL.
- Wear earplugs whenever participating in noisy activities. Disposable foam earplugs from just about any drugstore work fine, but if you frequently attend concerts, use power tools or ride a motorcycle – to name a few especially noisy activities – investing in a pair of custom earplugs designed from molds of your ear canals will provide you with better protection and a more comfortable fit.
- When listening to music, make sure you set the volume no higher than 60 percent of maximum and take periodic breaks, so your ears have a chance to rest. Rather than earbuds – a notorious contributor to hearing loss in young people – use noise-canceling headphones, which block external sounds, allowing you to listen to music at lower volume levels.
- Make an appointment with an audiologist for a thorough hearing exam. A majority of people delay seeking treatment, but this only leads to more problems down the road. Symptoms are often hard to recognize early on, so an expert hearing professional is best determined to diagnose your problem.
Your Chelmsford or Nashua audiologist can provide you with additional tips on preventing noise-induced hearing loss.