How Much Do Summer Noises Impact your Hearing?

Nola Aronson, M.A., CCC-A, FAAA

Summer is one of the noisiest seasons. Fireworks, trains, concerts and target practice can all be harmful to your hearing. Once hearing is damaged, it cannot be repaired.

One in 10 Americans has hearing loss that affects their ability to understand normal speech. Aging is the most common cause. However, exposure to excessive noise can damage hearing in higher pitches.

Hearing loss due to excessive noise is totally preventable, unlike hearing loss due to old age or a medical condition.

Music to my Ears, or Just Plain Noise?

I recommend using hearing protection devices for those who are exposed to excessive, loud noises and musician’s earplugs, which simply attenuate the intensity/loudness without altering frequency response.

The use of ear buds by teenagers in your life may be saving your ears from their music, but it could be damaging their ears.  The rule of thumb is, if you can hear what they’re listening to it’s too loud.

Loud Noise Permanently Kills Ear Nerve Endings

Three small bones in the middle ear help transfer sound vibrations to the inner ear where they become nerve impulses that the brain interprets as sound.

When noise is too loud, it begins to kill the hair cells and nerve endings in the inner ear. The louder a noise, the longer the exposure, and the closer you are to the source, the more damaging it is doing to your nerve endings. As the number of nerve endings decrease due to damage, so does your hearing. Nerve endings cannot be healed or regenerated and the damage is permanent.

Here are a few summertime tips:

  • Cover your ears: Generic, over-the-counter earplugs are inexpensive and can be found at any drugstore. They can be custom-made for comfort and durability. Buy earplugs and keep them handy in wallets, backpacks, briefcases and purses so you can pop them in when noise is loud and continuous.
  • Swimmer’s ear and cotton swabs: Swimmer’s ear is caused by painful membrane swelling due to trapped moisture in the outer ear. Customized plugs for swimming are available and a good investment to avoid painful ear infections. After swimming, tilt your head to drain the water from each ear and gently wipe the outer ear with a towel. Do not use swabs, they can actually do more damage than good
  • The plane truth: Many travelers complain about ear discomfort when the plane is taking off or landing. Yawning, swallowing or chewing gum can be effective in unplugging the ears. If yawning and swallowing are not effective, pinch the nostrils shut, take a mouthful of air, and direct the air into the back of the nose as if trying to blow the nose gently. This may have to be repeated several times during the plane’s descent.

Registered Levels for Common Sounds

Normal Conversation/Typing

60 db

Noise from highway traffic

70 db

Earplugs recommended after                        85 db
Lawnmower, power tools

90 db

Loud rock concert, car horn

115 db

Fireworks, jet engine take-off

150 db

Sound of a shotgun

170 db

Information provided by American Academy of Otolaryngology

 

Nola Aronson has been helping Santa Clarita hear better for over 26 years.  For more information or to schedule an appointment to have your hearing screened give us a call at 661-253-EARS (3277). Advanced Audiology is located at 23822 Valencia Blvd #103 in the Owen Patterson building across from AAA.

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