We Live in a Noisy World

BETTER HEARING AND SPEECH MONTH

Audiology was born in the 1940s after thousands of American soldiers were returning from the War with noise-induced hearing loss. The Army wanted all of these veterans to be fit with hearing aids, and the scientists they enlisted in these efforts suggested that something should be done to protect the soldiers from getting hearing loss in the first place.

Little did those early hearing health pioneers know just how loud not only the war front would get, but how loud the world would get! And yet, 80+ years later, and despite all the developments in hearing protection… custom earplugs, musician’s earplugs, noise suppression circuitry, softer more comfortable earplug materials, and sound abatement technologies, noise exposure is still one of the most common causes of permanent hearing loss.

Loudness is measured in what’s called decibels (dB). Over time, any sound that’s 85dB or higher can cause hearing loss— or other hearing problems, like tinnitus (a sound in your ears that won’t go away). The louder a sound is, and the longer you listen to it, the more it can damage your hearing. For example, a whisper is approximately 30dB, normal conversational speech is 55-65dB, a movie theater is 70-104dB, a stereo in a closed cab tractor is 85-100dB, music through earphones/earbuds at the highest volume is 96-114dB, a chainsaw is 105dB, and a shotgun is 150dB-160dB! And remember, listening to any sound that exceeds 100dB for any amount of time risks permanent hearing loss.

The CDC estimates that 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years (approximately 5.2 million) and 17% of adults aged 20–69 years (approximately 26 million) have permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise. And to think that this kind of hearing loss can be prevented by using appropriate hearing protection and hearing conservation practices!

  • Turn down the volume.
  • Use appropriate hearing protection devices (such as earplugs and earmuffs) when you cannot avoid loud sounds.
  • Use quieter products (power tools, toys, recreational vehicles) whenever they are available. (For more, visit CDC’s Buy Quiet webpage.)
  • Reduce equipment noise by replacing worn, loose, or unbalanced machine parts. Keep equipment well lubricated and maintained.
  • Move or stay far away from the loud sound-producing sources, especially if attending with children.
  • Limit the length of time of exposure to loud sounds.
  • Bring hearing protection devices with you. Keep them in your car, pockets, or other easy-to-access places.

Linda Vaughan, MA, CCC-A, joined the Audiology Clinic at San Luis Valley Health in July 2010, bringing to the practice 30+ years of experience. "I chose a career in audiology because I was attracted to the science and I wanted a career that would make a difference and have a positive impact on people's lives." She is proud to be a third-generation Colorado native. Read more about Linda on the SLVH.org website, or schedule with her by calling 719-589-8025.