In many cases, a person’s ability to hear fades so slowly, it goes unnoticed. You may think that your friends are mumbling more, that your spouse needs to speak up, or that you ought to buy a better phone. As long as you still hear some sound, you might assume your hearing is fine. But as hearing loss progresses, you may become more and more cut off from the world of speech and sound. It’s important to start practicing hearing conservation now, even if you don’t think it’s happening to you.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including the following:
- Advanced Age: This is the most common cause of hearing loss. Researchers don’t fully understand why hearing declines with age. They speculate that it could be that lifetime exposure to noise and other damaging factors slowly wear down the ears’ delicate mechanics. Your genes are also part of the mix.
- Noise: Exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss, especially if your exposure is prolonged or repeated.
- Illness: Illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes put ears at risk by interfering with the ears’ blood supply.
- Infection: Infection or ear wax can block ear canals and lessen hearing.
- Trauma: Certain types of trauma, especially a skull fracture or punctured eardrum, put ears at serious risk for hearing loss.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can be prevented through hearing conservation. Every day, we experience sound in our environment, such as the sounds from televisions and radios, household appliances, and traffic. Normally, these sounds are at safe levels that don’t damage our hearing. But sounds become harmful when they are too loud (even for a brief time) or when they are both loud and long lasting (source).
Jobs in construction, manufacturing, and agriculture are amongst the worst when it comes to loud and long-lasting exposure to harmful noise. So if you have a career in one of these fields or in another industry that exposes you to loud noise daily, you are at risk for NIHL.
NIHL can be immediate or it can take a long time to be noticeable. It can be temporary or permanent, and it can affect one ear or both ears. Even if you can’t tell that you are damaging your hearing now, you could be at risk for hearing loss in the future. Fortunately, NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. If you understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health, you can protect your hearing for life.
Hearing conservation is the prevention of hearing loss from workplace noise or other environmental factors (source). Hearing conservation programs in the workplace strive to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip individuals with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard themselves (source). These programs can teach us a lot about protecting our ears in everyday life. We encourage you to learn from the following guidelines:
- Know which noises can cause damage (those at or above 85 decibels).
- Wear earplugs or other protective devices when involved in a loud activity (activity-specific earplugs and earmuffs are available at hardware and sporting goods stores).
- If you can’t reduce the noise or protect your ears from it, move away from it.
- Be alert to hazardous noises in the environment.
- Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
- Make family, friends, and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.
- Have your hearing tested ASAP if you think you might have hearing loss.
Whether you experience NIHL or encounter a totally different cause of hearing loss, an audiologist can provide the help you need to resolve the matter. To learn more about hearing conservation, schedule a consultation with Apex Audiology today if you live near Limon, Pueblo, or Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dr. William F. Herholtz can conduct a simple hearing test, increase your understanding of your hearing loss, and offer solutions for treatment. To get started, please call us at 719-247-9000 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!