Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Noise induced hearing loss

Parents...have you ever wondered if your child is listening to music so loudly it could hurt their hearing? Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us to share more information about noise induced hearing loss and just how loud is too loud.

Meghan Kulig: Is hearing loss a common problem?

Dr. Arnold: Approximately 26 million people between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss from overexposure to loud noises at work or leisure activities. Noise induced hearing loss is preventable, so it's important for people to learn about ways to protect themselves and their families.

Meghan Kulig: How does noise induced hearing loss occur?

Dr. Arnold: Noises that are too loud or last for too long damage tiny structures in the inner ear. This damage can be permanent.

Meghan Kulig: What are common sources of noise that viewers should watch out for?

Dr. Arnold: It can be things as commonplace as yard work or farm equipment noise, band instruments, snowmobiles, or attending concerts or sporting events. A good rule of thumb is to avoid sound that is too loud or too close or lasts for too long. For example, heavy big city traffic can reach 85 decibels. The National Institutes of Health reports that long-lasting or repeat exposure to sounds louder than this may cause hearing loss. Some examples of noises typically louder than this include motorcycles, small firearms, and fireworks.

Meghan Kulig: What are some ways to tell if a noise may be too loud?

Dr. Arnold: If you have to raise your voice to be understood by someone standing nearby, the noise hurts your ears, you develop a buzzing or ringing sound in your ears, even if it's temporary, or if you feel like you can't hear as well for a few hours after you have been exposed to the noise, then the noise may be too loud.

Meghan Kulig: What are some tips if people might be exposed to noise levels higher than that threshold?

Dr. Arnold: Wear earplugs or other hearing protective devices. These are typically available at many sporting goods stores or hardware stores. Also, protect the ears of children nearby. Try to minimize the amount of time you are exposed to the noise or move further away from the noise.

Meghan Kulig: How about listening to headphones?

Dr. Arnold: Try to keep it turned down as much as possible. The volume output levels may vary based on your listening device and type of headphones. Information from the National Institutes of Health advises that if someone else near you can hear your music, then it's too loud.

Meghan Kulig: Does exposure to high levels of noise at a young age increase the risk for future problems?

Dr. Arnold: There is research showing that noise induced hearing loss experienced at a young age may accelerate age-related hearing loss later in life. The impact from noise adds up over a lifetime, so if you are exposed to loud noises on a regular basis, the risk for damage increases as you age.

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