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Say What?

Originally posted on www.ubabenefits.com.

Like the commercial for a wireless carrier that asks, “Can you hear me now?” hearing loss is a very real danger and one that’s irreversible. With the proliferation of personal listening devices, earbuds, and designer headphones, more and more people are subjecting their ears to potentially damaging levels of noise.

Have you, or someone you know, ever worn earbuds or headphones to listen in private, yet a person next to them can still clearly hear the music? If that’s happened, then it’s likely the volume was too high. In an article onCNN.com titled, A Billion at Risk for Hearing Loss from Exposure to Loud Music, the World Health Organization says that more than one billion — yes, BILLION — teens and young adults are at risk of losing their hearing.

The World Health Organization analyzed the listening habits of people age 12 to 35 in what they considered the wealthier countries around the world. Their findings were that nearly 50% of the people analyzed listened to sound at an unsafe volume on personal audio devices and about 40% were exposed to music and noise at damaging levels at entertainment locations.

If someone is at a bar, nightclub, music or sporting event, just 100 decibels of noise (which is a typical level at these locations) for 15 minutes is all it takes. However, when it comes to our ears, the level of sound doesn’t have to be too high to cause permanent damage. In fact, exposure to noise at a mere 85 decibels (approximately the level of traffic noise heard from inside a car) for eight hours is high enough to be considered unsafe.

Worst of all, once your hearing is damaged and lost, it won’t come back. Typically, most people don’t really think about hearing loss until they notice that they can’t hear part of the conversation at a dinner table, or they have to turn up the TV volume higher than they used to. The World Health Organization feels strongly enough about hearing loss that they created the Make Listening Safe initiative.

The world around us is loud and our individual choices can make it even louder, but everyone has a personal responsibility to protect their own hearing. Best of all, it’s really easy to practice safe listening habits. Some things you can do to protect your hearing are:

  • Turn down the volume (a good rule of thumb is to not go above 60%)
  • Wear noise-canceling headphones
  • Take frequent, quiet breaks when listing to music, or listen for an hour or less per day
  • Download a smartphone app that can monitor noise levels
  • Use ear protection at all locations (bar, concert, sporting event, etc.) where you know it will be loud