Top 3 Hearing Protection Myths

Written by Carol Meyers, Au.D..

Hearing MythsProtecting yourself from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) should be a year-round consideration. With more options than ever to keep your ears safe in a wide variety of loud settings, there is really no reason to take chances with your hearing anymore although many people will likely continue to use the same old excuses for not doing so. Here are three of the most common reasons given for skipping hearing protection and why they don’t hold up under scrutiny.
Myth #1: Hearing protection interferes with my ability to enjoy concerts

It’s understandable not wanting anything to get between a great concert and your listening enjoyment. Basic foam earplugs can muffle some sounds to the point that the balance of instruments is thrown off (e.g., powerful bass overwhelms subtler keyboards). But when you consider the average rock concert can reach between 108 to 115 decibels (dB) and hearing damage begins at an exposure of 85 dB it’s counterintuitive not to protect your ears. Would you rather lose a few notes to the muffling effects of hearing protection or lose your ability to enjoy music (or anything else) permanently?
The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other anymore. Many high-quality hearing protection options are available that have been specifically designed to reduce decibel overload without losing sound quality.

Myth #2: I can rock and roll all night

Listening to your bedroom stereo cranked up to its highest volume is a time-honored tradition, especially for teenagers. This is one of the reasons so many baby boomers have developed hearing problems as they aged.
Nowadays, we can blast our favorite tunes directly into our ears thanks to MP3 players and headphones. The result is a startling increase in reports of hearing loss among teenagers. It may seem great to immerse yourself in your music for hours every day, but the risk you run is losing your hearing early and it will only worsen as you grow older. If you want to enjoy music throughout your life, limit your earbud or headphone use to an hour or less at a time, and make sure you keep your volume set at 80 percent of capacity or less.

Myth #3: It’s only short-term

We all have so much to keep track of these days when going to events. Who can remember to bring hearing protection along to one-time or infrequent events like fireworks displays, parades, or shooting ranges? You may think that if exposure to a particular loud noise is rare or isolated, it can’t cause permanent damage. But you’d be wrong.
One-time exposure to an extremely loud noise can cause serious damage within a minute or less. For example, if you are setting off fireworks, you are exposing your ears to approximately 145 db. A shotgun blast clocks in at around 165 dB. Single exposure to either level of sound is all it takes to kill some of the sensitive hair cells (nerves that carry sound impulses to your brain) and leave you with permanent hearing loss. Another likely complication is tinnitus an irritating, constant noise in your ears often described as “ringing,” “buzzing,” or a similar sound. Ask anyone who suffers from tinnitus how it affects them. It may just make you rethink the importance of remembering hearing protection.
An ounce of hearing protection is all you need
You know the old saying about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure? That is definitely the case when it comes to NIHL and tinnitus. While hearing aids have come a long way in their ability to treat both conditions, neither is reversible. When your natural hearing becomes damaged, it can never be fully restored, and once you have ringing in your ears, it can only be suppressed, not cured. So don’t ruin your ability to enjoy the sounds that make your life rich and enjoyable be proactive and protect your hearing today.

Carol Meyers, Au.D.
Dr. Carol Meyers is an Educational Specialist for Sivantos, Inc. She is responsible for the training and education of staff and hearing care professionals in the U.S. on the company’s products, technology, software, services, and audiology-related topics at industry events, face-to-face meetings, in publications, and through virtual courses. She is responsible for the planning and execution of online courses, including The Expert Series, which reaches a growing number of hearing care professionals each year. Prior to joining Sivantos (then Siemens Hearing Instruments) in 2007, Dr. Meyers dedicated more than 25 years to clinical practice, during which she attained a comprehensive understanding of diagnostics, hearing aid technology, and how to address the communication needs of individuals. Dr. Meyers holds a doctorate degree in Audiology from Arizona School of Health Sciences and graduate and undergraduate degrees from the University of Nebraska.
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