By Debbie Clason
Just as autumn is a glorious time to throw open the windows and enjoy some fresh air, winter is a time to keep them closed and fight off the chill. But the home-baked smells and warmth of the season aren’t the only things we’ve trapped inside — so is the noise generated by daily living. And while many sounds are absorbed by the soft interiors of our homes — think curtains, furniture and carpeting — our hearing health depends on our ability to keep inside noises at acceptable levels this time of year.
What Does Noise Have to Do With My Hearing Health?
Look for information about sound levels on the box when you purchase a noisy appliance.
According to the National Institutes for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), as many as 24 percent of Americans under the age of 70 have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to a loud sound, such as an explosion, or prolonged exposure to sounds exceeding 85 decibels (dB). The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes to damage your hearing. Noise affects the delicate structures of the inner ear, most especially the stereocilia which are responsible for translating the sounds our ears collect into electrical impulses to send to the brain. Each hair cell is responsible for translating a specific frequency. Once these hair cells are damaged or die, they do not regenerate, meaning our ability to hear those frequencies is permanently altered.
Is My House Really That Noisy?
You might be surprised how loud daily household items can be. How loud is too loud? Basically, if you are unable to carry on a conversation with someone standing beside you, it’s an indication that the volume on the television or stereo is set too high or the appliance is too noisy.
According to Quiet Home Lab, even common household appliance decibel levels can be harmful to your hearing over time. Because hearing damage from excessive noise is cumulative, be aware of the decibel levels of your appliances. Here’s a good rule of thumb for some common appliances you may use on a daily basis:
How Can I Protect My Hearing?
Although the damage noise inflicts upon your hearing is permanent, it’s good to know it’s also preventable. It’s never too late to begin protecting your sense of hearing.