Think about when you woke up today. What do you remember? The birds chirping, the cars on the street, the patter of rain against the windows. How much of your life is connected to what you hear?
Now imagine the rest of the sounds you hear throughout the day: your child’s laughter, your best friend whispering something secret, the click of your dog’s nails on the floor as he runs to welcome you home. Imagine if all of that started to fade.
Unfortunately, that’s the reality for some 36 million American adults who report experiencing varying degrees of hearing loss. They have all faced the reality of losing the ability to hear the sounds we take for granted every day. Of the 17 percent of Americans who suffer hearing loss, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 26 million adults between the ages of 20-69 have high-frequency hearing loss as a direct cause of their exposure to noisy environments.
In other words, hearing loss is preventable for 26 million people. By being aware of your surroundings and carrying the proper ear protection, you can help preserve your hearing, as well as those familiar sounds that bring so much comfort and joy to you every day.
Earplugs are inexpensive to purchase, easy to carry and discreet to wear, especially if you have long hair. For those who work in loud environments, like a construction site or a manufacturing facility, earplugs are a necessity. A recent study shows that in some cases earplugs achieved a higher level of protection than the advertised Noise Reduction Rating.
Proper earplug insertion is essential to achieving the highest possible protection. Incorrectly inserted earplugs will allow harmful noises to sneak in through the gaps between the plug and the ear canal. When properly inserted, earplugs can reduce outside noise by as much as 30 decibels. To compare, a chainsaw registers at 120 decibels. Proper earplugs could drop that noise level by one-fourth.
If you work in a noisy environment, your safety manager should be able to instruct you on the proper way to put in earplugs. Many companies offer either individual or group training as part of the orientation process. If you feel like you are not receiving the maximum protection from your earplugs, ask your supervisor for help.
There are other ways you can help prevent hearing loss as well, including:
- Keeping the volume on earphones and headphones at a low level,
- Taking ear protection to concerts or clubs,
- Avoiding overly noisy environments, or staying a safe distance away from the origin of the noise,
- Being generally aware of your surroundings, and
- Having your hearing checked regularly.
Hearing check-ups should be scheduled regular basis because your audiologist may be able to identify a hearing issue before you notice it. It’s recommended you have your hearing tested every two years, unless you notice a change in your hearing beforehand.
If you think about it, regular hearing check-ups make perfect sense. We have our teeth checked and cleaned twice a year, our bodies checked once a year and our eyes checked twice a year. How did our ears get left out of the routine?
By wearing ear protection and visiting your audiologist regularly, you can help prevent yourself from becoming one of the 26 million Americans who could have prevented their hearing loss. Tomorrow when you wake up, count the number of sounds you can hear. Then count your blessings.