What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)? -NIHL is caused by exposure to loud noise over a prolonged period of time – this damages the hair cells in the cochlea (sensorineural hearing loss – click here for more information). Apart from age-related hearing deterioration it is the most common cause of hearing loss. The World Health Organization says “in many countries excessive noise has become the most compensated occupational health hazard.” Once damaged, the cochlea cannot be repaired, therefore prevention really is the key to battling this prevalent hearing epidemic. Here are come simple precautions:
Exposure to noise out of work - It doesn't have to be work-related to be bad for us. There are many activities that we enjoy outside of work that could be damaging our hearing. Take a look at some of them and find out what you can do to reduce the risk:
Listening to music - particularly through headphones - It sounds like the obvious answer would be to just turn it down, however, it's not that simple. It's actually down to the amount of time you listen for, as well as the volume. Listening to music at 80-85 decibels for more than an hour every day could cause the same damage as listening for 15 minutes a day at more than 100 decibels. (Normal conversation volume is about 65 decibels). Limit yourself to 60 minutes a day and listen at just over half the volume. Also, try the earmuff style headphones as they are more effective at drowning out background noise, which is sometimes why we turn the volume up.
Going to a concert or festival - The after effects of going to a festival or music event can be quite obvious – ringing in the ears or general dullness. This is obviously not good for your ears. Basically, if you cannot talk to a person standing two meters away without shouting, then the music is too loud. Levels can be up to 110 decibels, which is like standing next to a pneumatic drill. If possible buy some earplugs, spend some time at the chill-out zones and stay away from the speakers!
Recreational activities such as shooting and motorcycling - Wear ear protectors when shooting; sudden loud noises so near to your ear can seriously damage hearing, so always take precautions. Motorbike noise can be up to 100 decibels so, if you ride a lot or spend time around a racetrack, you should invest in some comfortable earplugs.
Become familiar with the law if you work in a noisy environment - If you work in an environment which is subject to loud noise, make sure you are familiar with the laws so you know your employer is doing all they should to protect your hearing. This may be to ensure you wear ear protectors and if you are subject to noise over 85dB(A) on a daily basis. They should also actively try to prevent employees from being subjected to noise any more than necessary.
Ultimately, once your hearing is gone, it's gone. Don't think it won't happen to you – none of us have superpowers and the cause and effect theory will catch up with you in the end.
NOTE: This is a collaborative post written by Kathryn Thompson