Hearing hazards are everywhere, but have you considered the hearing hazards in your own home? Here’s how to protect yourself from hearing hazards at home.
You may be aware that very loud noises can damage your hearing, but did you know that sounds from everyday living can also pose a risk to your hearing ability? Based on studies, the National Institutes for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimate that up to 24 percent of Americans under the age of 70 years suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
As you might expect, noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a one-time, very loud noise, such as an explosion or gunshots. However, prolonged exposure to noises that aren’t quite as loud can also lead to NIHL. Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the eardrum or the structures of the middle and inner ear.
The stereocilia are one of the delicate structures of the inner ear that, if damaged, can contribute to hearing loss. Stereocilia are hair cells in the inner ear that respond to sound and translate that sound into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain. Each hair cell translates a specific sound frequency. If these hair cells are damaged or die, they cannot repair or regenerate. This means that your hearing ability at those frequencies is permanently changed.
You may be surprised to learn that there are noises in your own home that pose a hazard to your hearing. Because noise-induced hearing loss can be cumulative, repeated noises in your home can eventually lead to hearing loss. Exposure to any noise over 85 decibels (dB) puts you at risk for NIHL. The following list includes the average decibel level for several common household appliances.
- Blender: 80-90 dB
- Doorbell and telephone ring: 80 dB
- Garbage disposal: 70-95 dB
- Hair dryer: 60-95 dB
- Television audio: 70 dB
- Vacuum cleaner: 60-85 dB
- Washing machine: 50-75 dB
Prolonged exposure to these and other household sounds can contribute to NIHL over time. As a rule of thumb, remember that if you cannot hold a conversation with a person standing next to you, the noise is too loud.
Thankfully, there are several precautionary steps you can take to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss in your home. Here are a few simple ideas to safeguard yourself from hearing hazards at home:
- Turn down the volume on the TV, car radio, in-home stereo, and any personal electronic devices you use.
- When shopping for household appliances, check the packaging for a decibel level. Choose appliances that operate at a lower decibel level.
- If you enjoy noisy hobbies like woodworking or home improvement, wear a set of noise-canceling headphones.
- If your home environment still seems very noisy, wear foam earplugs when you expect to be exposed to excessive noise.
To ensure that you receive treatment for any hearing loss, be certain to schedule an annual hearing test with a hearing professional. We recommend that you contact your audiologist today to schedule a hearing test and to learn more about how you can safeguard your hearing at home.