Hearing: The Invisible Sense
Unlike your other senses, your ears are always on, even when you are asleep. Hearing is one of our strongest senses, developed over centuries of evolution. Our early ancestors relied on the sense of hearing when it was too dark to see. Footsteps or a rustle of leaves would notify them that they were not alone.
Hearing is an invisible sense – and when our hearing is damaged, hearing loss is an invisible condition. It is currently the third most common medical condition in the United States, affecting 20% of the population. One in three Americans over the age of 65 experience some degree of hearing loss, and with the advent of portable technology, the cases of hearing loss in teenagers continues to rise.
Hearing loss is a permanent condition. Though it can be treated with hearing aids, your hearing cannot be restored to its normal ability once it is damaged. The good news is, there are steps you can take to protect your hearing before it is too late.
Earbuds are ubiquitous now: people wear them while exercising, to talk on the phone, to listen to music or watch TV while commuting or at home. Every smart phone comes with a pair of earbuds, with a microphone for conversation.
Earbuds are extremely hazardous to your hearing. Because they are not built to cancel out external noise, the volume of your music and media is competing with outside sounds, causing you to turn up the volume. Earbuds are worn in your ear canal, in close proximity to your eardrums. This position increases the risk of hearing damage, especially when you consider that some music players reach 120 decibels, comparable to working in a coalmine.
We recommend the use of noise-canceling headphones, rather than earbuds.
Occupationally hazardous noise levels have contributed to rise of cases of hearing loss in the workforce. Currently, 60% of the workforce in the US experiences some degree of hearing loss. Occupations with hazardous noise levels are diverse: carpentry, air traffic control, dentistry, factory work, hair styling (due to the hair dryer), and even nursey school teaching (due to the high-frequency voices and volume of children).
We recommend using custom ear protection in the workplace. If your employer does not provide them, consider talking to them about the dangers of occupationally-related hearing loss.
Home Improvement and Appliances
Power tools, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, hammering – the business of taking care of your home and your DIY construction projects is loud. Lengthy exposure to sounds over 85 decibels has the potential to damage your hearing. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and snow blowers all clock in at 106 decibels, while hand drills are approximately 100 decibels. Aside from home improvement, using a hair dryer to dry your hair daily may also damage your hearing. Again, using custom ear protection for these projects will save your hearing.
If you are a hunter or shoot at a gun range, the traumatic bursts of gunfire may cause permanent damage to your hearing. At the same time, your sense of hearing is important in these activities. Jet-skiing, driving a motorcycle, or attending live music performances and sports events in venues all have potentially damaging effects on your hearing if your ears are not protected.
Custom ear protection is available for musicians, hunters, and for general use to protect your ears from these dangerous decibels.
GREENTREE HEARING & AUDIOLOGY
10900 Manchester Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63122