In just a couple weeks, we will celebrate our fathers, husbands, grandfathers, uncles, and any other wonderful men in our lives. Maybe you’ve purchased tickets to a baseball game, or organized an afternoon at the shooting range. Or maybe you plan to lend a helping hand at home. But have you planned to protect your hearing during your time with loved ones?
Protect your ears from NIHL
Spending time together on Father’s Day is possibly the greatest gift you can give Dad, but some activities can cause hearing damage if you’re unprepared. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) occurs when you’re exposed to sound that is too loud. These loud sounds cause permanent, physical damage to the hair cells in your inner ear that perform a vital function in the process of hearing. This can happen from a constant loud sound over an extended period of time, or a one-time exposure to a really loud noise. In either case, preventative measures can make all the difference.
When you’re in a loud environment, you should limit the amount of time you’re exposed to the noise or wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or ear muffs. Earplugs go into your ear to block sound from entering the canal, whereas ear muffs fit over the entire ear and should fit tightly against the head in order to protect your ears.
Both are viable options that will not obstruct your hearing completely, but rather cut noise down by 15 to 30 decibels (dB) so you can still hear without permanently damaging the hair cells in your ear. They can be purchased online or at any sporting goods store, home improvement store, or general merchandise superstore such as Walmart and Target.
What is considered ‘loud’?
‘Loud’ is any noise 85 decibels or higher (a good rule of thumb: if you have to shout to be heard, it’s too loud). Exposure to 85 dB for more than eight hours can lead to permanent loss. Each time that noise level increases by just 3 dB, the amount of time it takes for damage to occur is cut in half. Consider using hearing protection if you’re spending Father’s Day at any of the following places:
1. Baseball games
Baseball is America’s pastime. Everyone loves watching their favorite team on a nice, sunny day, with the smell of hot dogs and roasted almonds wafting through the air. Walk-on music blaring, the roar of cheering fans, and occasional fireworks are exhilarating, but can also be deafening.
According to a study by the University of Michigan, the average decibel level of major league baseball games is 94 dB, the level which can cause damage in as little as a half hour of unprotected exposure. Peak stadium noise can reach up to 114 dB, putting your hearing at risk in under one minute!
2. Shooting ranges
It’s obvious that guns are loud, but do you know how loud? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB, all of which cause instant damage. Shooting a gun in an enclosed space where sounds can reverberate, or bounce off walls and other structures, can increase the risk of hearing loss. If you do not wear hearing protection while firing a gun, you can suffer severe hearing loss with just one shot!
Like baseball games, many people enjoy the thrill of a Formula 1 or NASCAR race. As the excitement and energy of the crowd increases, so does the noise level and chances that your hearing will be damaged. Scientists from the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have determined that spectators are more likely to suffer hearing damage because they’re exposed to louder noise than the driver, who is usually protected by custom-molded earplugs. Most races average between 90 and 115 dB depending on the types of cars, the track, and viewing location. In the pits, noise levels can reach up to 130 decibels.
4. Live concerts
Have you ever experience ringing in your ears after attending a live music concert? That’s tinnitus, the result of hours of exposure to music blasting through the speakers at too loud of a decibel level. Concerts can range from 90 to 120 dB. At that noise level, permanent damage occurs in mere minutes. Even if that ringing goes away in a few hours or days, concert level noise exposure can still lead to permanent hearing damage.
5. Garages and yard work
Planning to help Dad with work around the house this Father’s Day? Keep in mind that even though power tools and yard equipment might not seem that harmful, the constant exposure can cause hearing damage.
Lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, and leaf blowers can all produce sound levels over 100 dB. Using power tools like these for 10 to 15 minutes at a time without proper hearing protection is hazardous. Additionally, there are many noisy tools that are permanently located in the garage, such as band saws, table saws, and drills, and using them in enclosed garage space makes those sounds even more dangerous. Keep the garage door open to give some of the sound a place to go and wear proper hearing protection.
Treating hearing loss
Remember, every time your ears are exposed to loud noise, they’re damaged a little more. Noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible, so prevention is key. Earplugs and ear muffs are an easy and inexpensive way to protect your ears without sacrificing any part of your Father’s Day experience.
If you think you, your father, or a loved one has already experienced hearing loss, take a hearing test to confirm, and then find a hearing solution that best fits your lifestyle and budget. MDHearing offers a line of affordable hearing aids that come with a 45-day risk-free in home trial, 100% money-back guarantee. For more information, we’re just a click or call away.