Are the things you do every day hurting your ears? Noise-induced hearing loss means the sensitive components of the inner ear are suffering irrevocable damage from exposure to sound. The noise you hear is actually a wavelike vibration that your brain transforms into sound. High-intensity noise has the potential to damage the sensory cells that send these vibrations to the brain.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls noise-related hearing loss one of the most prevalent job safety hazards. It is a problem that affects millions of people each year. The recommendation for hearing protection on the job is exposure to sound equivalent to 85 decibels for eight hours a shift. How do you know when sound is hurting your ears, though?
- You have to Shout
If you work at a job that requires you to shout to your coworkers just to be heard, that is a clear indication that the background noise is too loud. The ground crew at the airport has no hope of being heard over the engine noise without shouting, for example.
- You have to Whisper
If you need to get close and whisper to someone in order to be heard, it means the noise around you is loud enough to mask normal conversation. Exposure to this intensity of sound occasionally is not a problem, but day after day, it will take a toll on your hearing. Musicians often wear earplugs on stage to protect their ears. This allows them to talk to one another but keep their hearing safe from the vibration of the music at the same time.
- Your Ears Ring After Work
When you leave a noisy environment and your ears ring, it is a sign of temporary hearing loss. Tinnitus, or ringing, is a ghost sound common among people with permanent hearing loss. It is not very well understood, but it appears to have both an auditory and neurological basis.
Acute tinnitus is the ringing you experience after being exposed to loud noise. It is temporary, but something to take seriously, especially if it is a common occurrence.
- You Have a Problem Hearing for Hours After You Leave the Job
Trauma from exposure to a loud noise can give you temporary hearing loss. If it takes hours for you to begin hearing normally again after work, you need ear protection to prevent that daily ear abuse.
Industrial jobs are at the top of the list for hearing protection, but it doesn’t stop there. People working in nightclubs, manufacturing plants, train conductors, lawn care professionals; any of these jobs put you at risk. Even leisure activities that you do daily can lead to hearing damage. Something as basic as using headphones while riding the bus is a risk factor.
If you concerned about your exposure at work, ask your employer to test the sound level. If it falls over the 85 decibel mark, you need hearing protection.