Not only is October my favorite month because I love fall, boots and sweater weather, and Halloween, but it also happens to be National Audiology Awareness Month. This is a time where we try to increase public awareness of our profession and the importance of hearing health care. Audiologists are the primary health-care professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat, and manage hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children.
As an audiologist we feel hearing is an important, and yet often undervalued, sense. Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. One of three have hearing loss caused by noise exposure. This Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is on the rise, especially with today’s teens. Historically, we see NIHL in adults who worked in factories or were in the military prior to regular use of hearing protection. Today, personal music players cranked to the max are causing an increase in NIHL in teens and young adults.
Luckily, NIHL one of the few preventable causes of hearing damage. Wearing hearing protection is a great way to limit noise exposure. Anything louder than 85 decibels (dB), or the equivalent of a blow dryer, for an extended period of time can cause hearing loss. Music players can reach 100dB or more! The louder the sound, the less time it takes to damage your ears. If you can hear someone’s music while standing beside them while they have their headphones on, they are giving themselves hearing loss.
Unfortunately, the hearing loss and side effects don’t often appear until years later and the damage has already been done. This is why it is important to protect your hearing from a young age. One of the most common side effects from NIHL is tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. When we damage our hearing, our brain makes up for it by creating its own sound. This is a sign that you should turn it down, wear hearing protection, and have your hearing evaluated by and audiologist. For more information on how to protect your hearing visit www.TurnItToTheLeft.com. For more information about audiology and our professional initiatives visit www.audiology.org.
Authored by Sarah Lundstrom, Au.D.