“Are your hobbies noisy?”

“Yes, I do a lot of yard work, and I also enjoy woodworking. Will that affect my hearing?”

As an audiologist with 24 years of experience, I have noticed patterns emerging in my audiograms, and noise-induced hearing loss is one of them. As you can see on the audiogram below, there is a dip near 4000 Hz. Audiologists refer to this type of hearing loss as a 4000 Hz notch.

Audiogram showing pattern of noise-induced hearing loss.

You might have noise-induced hearing loss and not realize it.

Because noise-induced hearing loss develops slowly after many years of prolonged noise exposure, many people might not notice the change. Many of my patients’ hearing loss began at a frequencies where they could still hear some speech sounds. Because of this, they might not have had difficulty understanding conversations at first. However, as exposure to noise continued over the years, their hearing worsened, severely lessening their ability to understand speech.

Common Types of Noise Exposure

The CDC provides a list of common sounds that will damage the inner ear when they are loud and prolonged. Here are a few:

  • Gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers – Landscaping equipment ranges around 80-85 decibels and can damage your hearing after two hours of constant exposure. 
  • Motorcycles – They range about 95 decibels and damage your hearing after about 50 minutes of exposure.
  • Sporting events – Events such as hockey playoffs or football games can reach about 100 decibels and damage your hearing within 15 minutes of exposure. When we do return to some normalcy and we are able to attend sporting events keep this in mind!
  • Personal listening devices – The maximum volume of a personal listening device can reach 105-110 and cause hearing loss in less than 5 minutes.

I’m sure you’ve participated in at least one item on the list without using hearing protection. Remember, if healthy hearing habits are not practiced on a routine basis, hearing loss can happen over time.

How To Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Hearing loss resulting from noise is often preventable. The best ways to protect your hearing from noise damage are to:

  • Lower the volume on any personal listening devices.
  • Wear over-the-counter hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs. Make sure you are inserting your foam earplugs correctly by watching this tutorial.
  • Visit your local audiologist and obtain a pair of custom hearing protection. You will be surprised by the functionality and durability of professionally made hearing protection.
  • Obtain a baseline audiogram yearly from Dr Serpa to identify shifts in your hearing that you may otherwise not notice. Having these checks done will also give you the opportunity to discuss more about your specific noise exposure and receive recommendations for your occupation or hobby.

"Follow the signs to protect your hearing: Walk away from the noise, Turn down the volume, Wear ear protection."

Why Protecting Your Hearing Is Important

I wrote this article to show you that loud environments endanger your hearing. Please don’t be the person who disregards the warning, thinking, “It will be fine. It will not happen to me.” Despite your doubts, hearing protection is needed to preserve your hearing in noisy environments. Research has proven that wearing hearing protection will also:

  • Decrease your chances of cognitive decline.
  • Decrease your chances of tinnitus.
  • Decrease your risk of social isolation and depression.

Let Us Help!

Come in for a hearing check to see where your hearing stands now, and discuss what kind of environments you find yourself in that could be damaging to your hearing health. We can even fit you for customized hearing protection that suits you and fits your hearing situation. Contact us today for an appointment.