What Exactly Causes Hearing Loss?
Aside from exceptional cases in which hearing loss is the sudden consequence of a tragic accident, hearing loss is most often the outcome of prolonged exposure to dangerously loud sound levels without proper preparation.
This may happen in one’s workplace. Certain industries are notoriously risky, such as mining, agriculture, manufacturing, and nightlife. Other people are habitually exposed to dangerous volumes not at work, but as a result of their recreational activities. Common habits that present such a risk include attending sporting events or concerts, playing loud video games, or even frequenting aerobic classes that keep the volume loud to pump your adrenaline. Many of us are simply exposed to dangerous volumes via noise pollution in our neighborhoods. The clang of construction machinery, the shriek of sound systems, the roar of trains or planes are all examples.
These have one thing in common: the sound level is beyond the control of those exposed to it. Sure there are regulations and guidelines that various industries are supposed to adhere to, but these are not strictly enforced in most workplaces. If you are the neighbor to a construction site near a train stop, you have very little control over those compounding volumes. If you are just one fan sitting in a roaring stadium packed with people overwhelmed with excitement, you are at their mercy.
A Matter of Personal Responsibility
Left untreated, hearing loss leads to many troubling consequences in every aspect of your life. Most immediately, there is the physical risk. Such risk is not only the result of a diminished awareness of one’s environment, but also the consequences that hearing loss has on your sense of balance and spatial orientation. Before many people even understand that they are experiencing hearing loss, they feel compelled to withdraw socially. This leads to feelings of social isolation, loneliness, and depression.Depression often becomes a self-perpetuating loop with increasing intensity, leading to cognitive and psychological troubles.
Not to mention the real world impact that all these conditions have on both your personal and professional opportunities and how such impacts only serve to reinforce the spiral. So much trouble with hearing loss at the root of it all when it could have been completely preventable if one took the initiative to form the proper healthy hearing habits.
Form Healthy Habits Now
Nearly 14% of everyone aged 18 and over in the U.S. lives with hearing loss and the percentage of people affected by it increases with age until people 75 years old and older are more likely than not to suffer from it. Of course it shouldn’t surprise anyone that older people are more likely to have hearing loss. They have obviously had more time to be exposed to dangerous volumes and more time for the consequences to catch up with them. But that does not mean that children are immune to the risks.
Pediatric audiologists are finding more children with worse hearing than they expect. Unlike adults and the common exposures they face that are laid out above, children are often much more in control of the exposures that pose the greatest risks to them. This is the volume at which they listen to their earbuds and headphones.
The impulse to crank up the volume on your headphones is understandable. It is rarely a conscious decision. The whole point of our popular entertainment is to escape into an alternate reality, so of course we feel the pull to intensify that experience. Jacking up the volume on a video game’s sound effects or a musical performance makes the experience more immersive in the immediate. But there are consequences, especially when the increased volume becomes normalized.
How Loud is Too Loud
At its peak, an iPhone’s volume can climb to 102 dB. This is the same volume as a leaf blower and it is safe to listen to your headphones at this volume for 10 minutes. Longer than 10 minutes at this volume will likely damage your hearing, but you will probably not notice it at first. What you will notice, eventually, is the compounded damage caused by unhealthy listening habits that you gradually create.
Keep in mind that sound levels are not measured linearly. At 70% volume, an iPhone is at 82 dB, a level safe to listen to eight hours a day. Nudge that up to 80%, 89 dB, and that volume poses a risk after just 90 minutes exposure.
So the most important healthy habit to adopt is to always remain aware. Whatever the context, whatever the source, increased volumes mean shorter safe exposure times. And forming healthy habits now and remaining vigilant about them, will save you from tremendous troubles sooner than you may expect.
- The Sound of Good Health: Understanding the Crucial Connection Between Hearing Health and Overall Well-being - November 28, 2023
- The Sound Investment: Early Healthy Hearing Habits for a Lifetime of Auditory Wellness - November 15, 2023
- Navigating Your Hearing Exam: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Addressing Hearing Loss - November 10, 2023
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