During this year’s National Protect Your Hearing Month—observed each October—learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and help Noisy Planet spread the word to others.
NIHL occurs when noise damages tiny hair cells within the cochlea—the small, snail-shaped organ for hearing in the inner ear. When hair cells are damaged, they can’t send information about sound to the brain. Since people can’t grow new hair cells to replace damaged ones, hearing loss from noise is permanent. (Watch Noisy Planet’s Journey of Sound video for a detailed explanation of how we hear.)
People of all ages can develop NIHL. A 2017 study shows that about 13 to 18 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have signs of possible NIHL. Hearing loss from noise may not be obvious at first, but symptoms can build over time. NIHL can make it difficult to communicate with others and to appreciate the sounds of everyday living, such as chirping birds or a crackling fire.
Luckily, NIHL is preventable. Noisy Planet strives to help children and teens make healthy hearing a habit early on, so that they can avoid NIHL for a lifetime. You can help prevent hearing loss from noise by following these simple lifestyle changes:
- Turn down the volume. Keep the volume low on smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs, and set maximum volume levels on devices used by children and teens. Sounds below 70 A-weighted decibels (dBA) are generally considered safe. Sounds at or above 85 dBA are more likely to put you at risk for NIHL, especially if they last a long time or are repeated. You can measure the decibel levels of devices and environments with a free app from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Move away from the noise. To reduce sound intensity and the impact of noise on your ears, increase the distance between you and the sound. Think of this simple step when you are near fireworks or concert speakers.
- Wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs. Sometimes you can’t easily escape the sound, whether you’re at a movie theater, a concert, a sporting event, or in a noisy work environment. Earplugs or protective earmuffs can help. If you’re a parent, carry hearing protectors for your little ones and be a hearing health role model by wearing them yourself. If you’re caught without hearing protectors, you can cover your ears with your hands.
Help spread the message about healthy hearing: