According to Kumar, even just “a single loud blast can cause irreversible damage, affecting one’s hearing permanently.” One of the easiest ways to protect yourself against hearing loss is to limit exposure to loud noises. This can be in small increments, like reducing the volume in headphones or earbuds when listening to music or audiobooks, or on a larger scale, like opting out of events you know will exceed the recommended exposure.
General hearing health protection tips:
- Be mindful of the volume on your devices (television, smartphone, and tablet), and reduce the volume when you can.
- If using headphones or earbuds, keep the volume low and take frequent breaks.
- Use quiet products when possible (for example, purchasing quieter appliances and power tools).
- Use hearing protection, like earplugs, if you’re going somewhere potentially loud and can’t control the volume (for example, in a movie theater or at a school play).
- Look for notices (through email or on paper flyers) with warnings of excessive noise and avoid locations accordingly.
As with many factors impacting your health, there are some you can control and others you can’t. Those out of your control include workplace noise, outside ambient sounds, and live events. Just because the intensity of these sounds is out of your control, doesn’t mean you can’t use protective gear to keep yourself safe.
Hearing loss is one of the most common disabilities claimed by veterans of the U.S. armed forces and is one of the reasons those who work on aircraft carriers (140 decibels sound pressure level) and other flight decks are required to wear protective gear.
Noise is a unique workplace hazard because exposure also occurs outside the workplace.
For example, even if a regulation limits exposure to decibel levels for a plant worker to five hours daily, the same worker can still surpass the limit just by walking around outside after work. In contrast, a person exposed to radiation or toxins in the workplace will likely only come into contact with the hazard at work and nowhere else, making it easier to regulate and protect workers. If you’re working in a loud work environment, like in the military or in construction, utilize the protection tips below.
Occupational noise hearing protection tips:
- Wear the required protective gear (ear plugs, ear muffs, noise-canceling headphones) and consider purchasing even stronger protective gear than recommended.
- If possible, choose a job where you’re around loud noises less frequently or request a position change in a quieter location.
- If you have control over the equipment used, consider purchasing quieter tools.
- If you’re working in an environment where no noise protection is advised and you’re noticing hearing loss, contact your local Occupational Safety and Health Administration branch and learn about your options.
- Take advantage of disability and other programs if hearing loss occurs while working in a loud environment.
Live concerts and other events can be fun, but they can also cause temporary and sometimes permanent hearing damage if they are too loud for too long. Since these are usually events you choose to attend, be mindful of how often you’re going, how long the event will be, and whether the venue is enclosed or open air. Enclosed venues often amplify noise, but even events at open-air venues can be harmful to your ears.
Live event hearing protection tips:
- Opt out of unnecessary and easily avoidable events.
- Use protective gear, like foam earplugs, ear muffs, or noise-reducing ear plugs, which still let sound in but work to reduce excessive noise (these are a great alternative for concerts when you still want to hear music but still protect your ears).
- When you’re somewhere, like a concert or sporting event, sit somewhere far from the loudspeakers.
- If possible, take breaks by walking away from the venue and having time away from the loud noises.