Holidays and noise: Hidden dangers

The holidays are a time of wonderful noises, like sleigh bells and laughter. But even some holiday events meant to be fun can expose you to noise-induced hearing loss if you're not careful.

Sources of noise-induced hearing loss during the holidays

Many people make a trip to "The Nutcracker," "Swan Lake" or " Christmas Carol" as part of their holiday traditions. However, sometimes, especially if you are sitting near the front, the sound can be so loud that it is potentially damaging.

Concerts and theater can cause noise-induced hearing lossWhile you can't measure the exact decibels of the sound at a theater or concert hall, and the decibels change frequently, you can do your best to protect your ears. Bring a set of earplugs to use if it becomes too loud. It's also a good idea to step out for a few minutes, if possible, to give your ears a break.

Other popular holiday traditions are symphony orchestra and caroling performances. The same precautions should be taken, and if you happen to be a player in an orchestra, ear plugs are a must. Though one recent study found that temporary hearing loss after a loud concert or performance might actually have protective properties, it's still probably not a good idea to take that risk.

Another likely source of noise-induced hearing loss during the holidays is large group settings, such as family holiday parties where people are talking over each other or getting very involved in a game of charades, or dinner at a particularly raucous restaurant. Make sure to step outside or into another room to give your ears a break if the place gets too loud.

Signs that things are too loud

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if things are noisy enough to be potentially damaging to your ears. Here are some signs to know if the sounds around you are too loud:

  • Your ears actually hurt.
  • You are experiencing ringing in your ears.
  • It's necessary to shout to be heard over the noise.
  • You have a hard time hearing for a few hours after noise exposure.

While noise-induced hearing loss is a serious and permanent condition, you can take precautions including avoiding the noise and using ear plugs and other protective devices. Also, share this information with family and friends with whom you are spending the holidays - awareness can go a long way toward creating positive change.

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