Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. The first step is understanding what types of noise is harmful. OSHA regulates noise exposure at 85 dB and above. An 85 dB noise example would be a viola or a noisy restaurant. Other examples would be in the orchestra pit or a power mower. Louder noise examples would include a weed trimmer at 94 dB, a flute at 100 dB, a chain saw at 115 dB, and a gun shot at 140 dB.
The second step is understanding dosage. The length you are exposed to noise also plays into the risk of hearing loss. OSHA states you can be in 85 dB noise up to 8 hours. However, a even a small increase in dB means a large decrease in safe time exposure. 91 dB safe exposure time is only 2 hours. A 103 dB time limit would be less than 8 minutes. Anything over 106 dB, and without ear plugs you could be exposed for only 3 minutes safely. A gun shot has no safe exposure time.
The third step is selecting the appropriate hearing protection. There are simple foam ear plugs that are easily available. The difficulty is in using them correctly. They must be rolled as tightly as possible, then inserted as deeply as possible and held in place while they expand. The biggest complaint about foam plugs is they make everything too quiet, and conversation with coworkers or friends very difficult.
Another type of hearing protection are filtered plugs. These allow conversational sounds to come in clearly, but reduce the loud damaging sounds. The filters have a flat response which makes them sound more natural, especially for musicians. These filtered plugs can be purchased as a one size fits most, or in a custom configuration. They are also suited for dentists and others who wish to protect their hearing, but hear conversational speech.
For hunters and others who use firearms, there are specialized electronic hearing protection devices available. Coming in two configurations, these shooters plugs can be both a boost to small sounds, like prey walking in the woods, and protect for the loud, fast sounds of a gunshot. SoundGear, made by Starkey, are great products that are affordable and make hunting safer.
Hearing protection is a vital step that can prevent hearing loss in the future, and save money in the long run. Contact our office to discuss options with our audiologist today!
I had an article on noise induced hearing loss printed in today's Mini Cassia Voice. Check it out!