The second most common cause of hearing loss (behind aging) is noise exposure. This can be the result of sudden exposure to an extremely loud sound or frequent, ongoing exposure to moderately loud sounds. Summer is the season of yardwork and power tools, and if you’re not careful, you may cause irreversible damage to your hearing.
What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Within the inner ear are tiny hair cells called stereocilia. These tiny cells are responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical energy that is transmitted via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound. Once these cells are damaged, they do not regenerate, and permanent hearing loss is the result.
Noise-induced hearing loss is associated with occupational hearing loss, which is hearing loss caused by the workplace. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), sounds at 85 dB can cause permanent hearing damage after about eight hours of continuous exposure. For reference, 85 dB is about the volume of passing highway traffic.
Lawn mowers, chainsaws, weed whackers and other power tools register around 95-100 dB, which means damage can result after just 15 minutes.
Avoiding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Yardwork is inevitable, but hearing loss doesn’t have to be. Follow the tips below to minimize your risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
Wear Ear Protection
There are many inexpensive options for protecting your hearing, from drugstore earplugs to earmuffs purchased online. Your audiologist’s office can even custom-design earplugs for maximum comfort and protection.
Skip the iPod
Yardwork can be monotonous and boring, which is why many people choose to play music through headphones while working. However, this can be dangerous, as you likely need to turn the volume up incredibly high to be heard over power tools. If you must rock out while mowing the lawn, invest in noise-cancelling headphones, which will block some of the sound from the lawnmower and prevent you from cranking up the volume too loud.
Break Up Your Work
Take breaks to give your ears a chance to rest. Spreading out your yardwork over a weekend will give your ears much-needed recovery time, as opposed to doing multiple chores requiring power tools back-to-back.
Switch to Electric
Electric power tools are much quieter than gas alternatives. If your equipment is old and outdated, consider making the switch, taking dB output into account when you make your purchase. Your ears and the environment will thank you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call House Providence Health Care Centers today.