Protect your ears to avoid noise-induced hearing loss, which is permanent

Hearing loss in the United States affects approximately 32 million people.The most common cause of hearing loss is presbycusis (or hearing loss associated with the aging process).The second most common cause of hearing loss is noise exposure.

A noise-induced hearing loss can be caused from a one-time exposure to a very loud sound or from exposure to loud sounds that last a long period of time.When people think of noise induced hearing loss they often think of adults who work in environments where they are exposed to loud noise such as landscapers, construction workers, members of the military or possibly factory workers. Other people think of friends or family members who may participate in recreational activities such as shooting or hunting, where they are exposing their ears to loud sounds each time they fire a gun.Today, we are now seeing a rise in noise-induced hearing loss among children and teenagers.There are approximately 5 million children in the United States who suffer from noise induced hearing loss.

These numbers may be due to the high number of children today who are now using headphones to listen to music, movies and video games.

The symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss are the same as they are for any other hearing loss. Most people do not realize at first they are having any difficulty hearing for many years. Hearing loss is gradual and over time people notice they have more difficulty.Very often people will report tinnitus or ringing in the ear as their first symptom. Other common symptoms are difficulty hearing in background noise and having to ask for repetition.

 Avoid/limit exposure to loud noise.  Turn down the volume on personal music systems (i.e. MP3 players, iPods, etc.).

 Move away from the source of loud sounds when it is possible.

 Use hearing protection (custom earplugs, foam earplugs or ear muffs work well just as long as they fit properly. Cotton balls are not considered hearing protection).

 Annual hearing evaluations are important to monitor your hearing sensitivity.

For individuals who already have hearing loss, it is highly recommended that they use hearing protection when they are exposed to loud noise.As an audiologist, I often counsel my patients that they need to protect the hearing they currently have and hopefully prevent further hearing loss.

You only get one set of ears that have to last your entire life … so protect your hearing now.

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