Noise is unavoidable. Elk Grove residents are exposed to it on a daily basis, even when they don’t even notice it. The cumulative effects of noise exposure result in hearing loss for many Americans over time. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce its impact on your life.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in California
Despite a widespread belief that hearing loss is mostly confined to senior citizens, it can—and does—affect people of all ages. Noise is the biggest contributor of hearing impairment for one simple reason: human ears were not designed to protect us from the sounds we encounter in modern life. Our cave-dwelling ancestors didn’t wait for the latest Jay-Z record to drop so they could listen to it on repeat through their earbuds with the volume cranked up to 10. They were too busy trying to tame fire and invent the wheel.
Everyday, background sounds—referred to as ambient noise—take their toll on our hearing. It’s obvious that noisy concerts and loud sporting events will negatively affect our hearing, but the danger isn’t confined to crowded arenas. Even household appliances like blenders, hair dryers and lawn mowers can generate noise that is loud enough to cause irreversible hearing loss over time. Exposure to these and other sounds causes damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for converting sounds into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain for processing. Once these nerve cells are destroyed, they won’t grow back and cannot be repaired. This is referred to as noise-induced hearing loss, and it affects people of all ages.
Travel to a remote part of the world and you’ll see firsthand the effects of inescapable noise exposure. Studies have found that indigenous elderly people living in places where there is little background noise can hear about as well as infants.
What You Can Do to Prevent Hearing Loss
The negative effects of hearing loss are well known. It doesn’t just make communication difficult; untreated hearing loss is linked to a number of physical, social and psychological health problems, ranging from loneliness and isolation to dementia and an increased risk of falls. Clearly, you’ll want to take steps to prevent hearing loss whenever possible.
There’s no volume control for ambient noise, but there are things you can do to help reduce your risks of developing a hearing impairment. Your Elk Grove audiologist recommends having earplugs with you pretty much every time you leave the house. Wear them whenever you are exposed to potentially harmful noise levels; at the movie theater, when mowing the lawn and watching a high school football game are all good examples. If you work in a noisy occupation such as manufacturing or construction, your employer is required by law to provide hearing protection to all workers who are exposed to eight-hour noise levels of 85 decibels (dB) or higher.
Another good thing you can do is to treat your ears the same way you do your eyes and teeth: schedule regular examinations to make sure there are no issues. Hearing tests are the best way to detect hearing loss early and ensure you receive the treatment you need to prevent many of the associated health complications.
For more information on protecting your hearing from noise, call an Elk Grove audiologist.