Many people experience a small amount of hearing loss as they age. But simply growing older is not the only predictor of hearing loss. About one in five adults has experienced permanent hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises, many of which are optional or can be avoided. One in three adults aged 65 to 74 have hearing loss.
When exposed to loud noises, tiny hair cells within your inner ear are destroyed. Because these cells don’t regenerate, one-time exposure to very loud sounds can permanently damage your hearing. Even moderate sounds can do the same damage with repeat exposure.
So, how loud is too loud? Repeated exposure to sounds over 85 decibels can do damage, whereas just five minutes of exposure to sounds over 110 decibels can harm your hearing in just five minutes.
The following activities are common culprits in hearing loss:
- Gunfire, for hunting, target shooting, etc – 140 to 175 decibels
- Live music events – 11- to 130 decibels
- Sporting events – 90 to 140 decibels
- Woodworking and similar projects – 90 to 112 decibels
- Gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, or snow blowers – 85 to 100 decibels
- Boating or motorcycle riding – 80 to 100 decibels
- Listening to music with headphones or earbuds – up to 110 decibels
- Music in exercise classes – 80 to 116 decibels
Obviously, avoiding the above activities is an easy way to protect your hearing. But for some people, life could feel dull without their favorite pastimes. Another option is to always wear ear plugs or another form of hearing protection when target practicing, attending loud events, and so on. And of course, keep the music turned down if you use headphones or earbuds; placing loud noises directly into your ears is a bad idea.
Those who experience hearing loss can suffer disruption in their relationships, an impaired social life, and other inconveniences. There’s no “cure” for hearing loss, but hearing aids can help you regain your quality of life. If you suspect hearing loss, visit an audiologist for a professional evaluation and prescription.