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Protect Your Hearing this Summer, Warns ASHA

Noise Can Painlessly and Silently Steal Your Hearing

ROCKVILLE, MD - May 21, 2004 - Summer is here, and with the warm weather comes more outdoor activities activities that can endanger your hearing health. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) warns that exposure to extremely loud noises, such as fireworks, rock concerts, power boating, and other loud recreational and household activities can permanently damage hearing.

"We often take our hearing for granted and don't realize that exposure to common loud noises every day can result in permanent hearing loss over time," said audiologist Larry Higdon, president of ASHA. "If you work in a noisy environment or engage in noisy activities frequently, an ASHA-certified audiologist can advise you on how best to protect your hearing."

Both the loudness of noise and the length of time you are exposed to noise determine its ability to damage hearing. Measured in decibels (dB), sounds that are louder than 85 dB are potentially hazardous. Permanent hearing loss can occur from prolonged or repeated exposure to sounds at 85 decibels or above, including jet engines, lawn mowers, motorcycles, chainsaws, powerboats, and personal stereos.

"Even a single exposure to a loud sound, like a gun shot, can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss," said Higdon.

Noise exposure is the most common cause of hearing loss and health statistics suggest our environment is getting noisier. Even the 17-year cicadas are currently contributing to environmental noise as a number of entomologists have reported their buzzing in some locations at nearly 90 dB.

"Audiologists are reporting they are seeing younger people with noise-induced hearing loss," said Higdon. "A sign of noise-induced hearing loss is when you can hear people talking, but you have difficulty understanding them."

Some warning signs when noise is too loud include:

  • You can't hear someone three feet away
  • You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area
  • You hear a ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise

ASHA recommends protecting your hearing by avoiding excessively loud noises when possible -- but when your exposure to loud noises or activities cannot be avoided, take a few simple precautions:

  • Alternate noisy activities with periods of quiet
  • Wear hearing protection like ear plugs or muffs
  • Limit lengthy periods of loud noise exposure
  • Buy quieter products (often printed in "dbs" on the packaging)

For free information about noise and hearing loss, or for a referral to an audiologist in your area, call ASHA's Action Center at 1-800-638-8255, or go to www.asha.org.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 114,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Audiologists are hearing health care professionals who specialize in preventing, identifying, and assessing hearing and balance disorders. Speech-language pathologists are health care professionals who identify, assess, and treat speech, language and swallowing problems.

Editor's Note: To download a printable graph depicting decibel levels, facts about noise and hearing loss, or view ASHA's public service announcements on noise and hearing health, log on to: http://www.asha.org/about/news/releases/2003/2003_hearing_health_video.htm

B-roll on noise and hearing loss is also available for broadcast stories. Contact ASHA's media relations office for more information.

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