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Protecting Yourself from Hearing Loss: It Starts at Home

You expect high noise levels on a busy city street with traffic, police sirens, jackhammers and the din of the crowd. So, you can prepare for the onslaught of sound by wearing protective ear gear. Foam ear plugs are only a few bucks at the local pharmacy. And they’re disposable.

Protecting yourself from hearing damage is easy when you’re prepared for it. Ear cups on the factory floor, noise cancellation headsets for those long flights, and musician earplugs for your favorite rock concert - too much sound all around. You can protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss in the outside world with a simple set of ear plugs.

But what about the sounds you encounter at home. Even if you live alone in the country, you’re still surrounded by noise levels that, over time, can contribute to hearing loss. Now, you don’t think of your home as a hearing danger zone, right?

It is.

Yard work is noisy

noise induced hearing loss snow blower
This noise is coming to a driveway near you soon!

Yard work requires some heavy duty equipment – all which can put out some major dBs.

Lawn mowers with a tuned up muffler can easily put out 100 dB of sound. And according to the National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH), any sound over 100 dB A for more than 15 minutes will cause damage. Translation? That’s more than enough to cause temporary hearing loss and possibly permanent down the road. So, as you’re “clearing the lower 40” on your riding mower, are you wearing ear protection?

Don’t leave home without it. A simple set of ear plugs is all you need to keep from damaging your hearing each time you cut the grass. And, if you spend a few hours a weekend riding around the yard, over time, you will experience cumulative hearing loss.

Other garage-based dangers to hearing: chainsaw, weed whacker, snow blower (this is coming out of hibernation soon!), circular saw, leaf blower, electric generator, gas-powered tiller – well, you get the idea. You work all week looking forward to a quiet weekend at home. With that in mind, you might forget that home or shall we say your yard can get pretty noisy.

It may sound silly. It may sound like an overreaction. But remember, hearing loss is based on the cumulative effect of loud noise throughout a lifetime so, like wearing sunscreen and staying in the shade, wear ear plugs when doing yard work or whenever you know you’re going to be exposed to the roar of a riding mower for more than a few minutes.

Inside The House

Even if you live alone, you occasionally run the vacuum, which is capable of pumping out 90 dBs – enough to damage your hearing in a couple of hours. So, if you plan to “run the vac” throughout the house, plug in your ear plugs and eliminate the stress on your ears. They’re already stressed enough.

Then there’s the hair dryer, blender, the food processor, coffee grinder. Electric mixer, music that follows you from room to room electronically (smart house owners take note). Getting overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry. These devices won’t alone cause hearing loss; however, over time cumulative exposure to them may.

Now, nobody wants to walk around the house with a heavy set of ear cups or even a noise cancellation head set. Overkill. And you may feel a little goofy, but consider keeping inexpensive foam earplugs stocked within the house.

So what exactly does cumulative mean? Consider this scenario. You have been running the vacuum for two and half hours and your vacuum is around 90 dB. After you run the vacuum you take a shower and now need to run the hair dryer for 20 minutes, this is also around 90 dB. Essentially you have now exposed yourself to 90 dB of sound for close to 3 hours and according to NIOSH for noise at 90 dB A; the maximum of exposure to prevent damage is 2 hours and 31 minutes, which you just exceeded.

Our hearing is no different than our skin. We all know you should only allow yourself a certain amount of time in the sun without wearing sunscreen – the same is for your hearing. If you have been exposing yourself to loud noise here and there around the house it adds up and may cause damage over time.

Go Proactive and Enjoy the Sound Of Nothing

noisy home
Noisy home?

You don’t have to wear ear protection every minute of every day but you can turn down the sound throughout the house.

Turn down the radio. Turn down the Mp3 players and if you aren’t listening to one, tell your kids to turn theirs down. If you have just ran the vacuum for 2 hours, give your ears a break and don’t start in with another noisy household appliance.

Finally, take advantage of quiet time. It’s rare in any busy home.

Enjoy the sound of silence. Your ears will. When the kids head off for school, turn off all appliances and spend an hour or two reading or working quietly. Don’t plug in your kid’s MP3 player and dance around the house as you vacuum. Talk about a double whammy! Ouch.

Increase your awareness of noise in every aspect of your life. Outside, at work, at a party, when fireworks are set off – wherever you live, be aware of the sounds around you. And be aware of the danger of the cumulative effect of loud noise on hearing.

Keep you and your family hearing healthy by turning down the volume, unplugging the machinery and wearing ear protection whenever you’re exposed to loud noise at home.

And if your house is like most, that’s every day!

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