Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Genevieve Spiliopoulos of Rex Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists at Wakefield is board-certified in audiology. She is a member of the American Speech and Hearing Association and is also a licensed Fast ForWord® provider.

Are the crickets chirping when the sun is shining? Is the tea kettle whistling when there’s no water on? These sounds you’re hearing may be due to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

I have been practicing audiology for over 15 years. I have always known about the dangers of excessive exposure to loud sounds. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I truly understood how loud the world is.

I think this realization came to me when I moved to North Carolina from New York City. Now you may say to yourself, how could this be? The City is much noisier than peaceful North Carolina, and you would be correct. The lifestyle in North Carolina, however, leads to more recreational sports, chores that expose us to loud sounds, extracurricular activities such as playing in the band, and let’s not forget about just listening to our MP3 devices at maximum volume levels.

Exposure to loud sounds over a period of time or exposure to a sudden, intensely loud sound for a short period of time can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. According to the American Academy of Audiology, approximately 36 million Americans have hearing loss. It is estimated that one in three of these individuals developed their hearing loss as a result of noise exposure. Noise-induced hearing loss is not just an adult issue, but a pediatric concern as well. There are approximately 5 million children between the ages of 6 and 19 with reported noise-induced hearing loss. Once sound levels reach 85dB, our ears are at risk if exposed to those sounds levels for longer periods of time.

Below is a chart of common sounds and their decibel equivalents:

SoundChart

How loud is too loud? There are many sound-level meter apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. If you decide to use a downloadable app, be sure to place the phone near your ear to get an accurate reading.

If you don’t feel like using an app, there are some other common sense ways of knowing how loud is too loud. If you have to raise your voice to be understood by someone you are talking to, if the noise physically hurts your ears or if you develop a ringing or hissing sound in your ears, then your environment is too loud. You should either walk away or use hearing protection.

There are various types of hearing protection, and their appropriateness is dependent on each person’s needs. At the very least, if you find yourself in a noisy environment, use disposable earplugs, which are sold at most drugstores.

However, if you are routinely exposed to loud sounds, you should seek advice from your audiologist on the most appropriate hearing protection to suit your needs. Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable as long as consistent and proper hearing protection is used in dangerously loud environments.

Whether you are hunting, mowing the lawn, riding on an ATV, playing the saxophone in your school band or just listening to your tunes – protect your hearing. Your ears will thank you for it!

Genevieve Spiliopoulos recently joined Rex Healthcare’s newly opened Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists at Wakefield.  In addition to Genevieve Spiliopoulos, audiologist, the practice also consists of two board-certified otolaryngologist, Dr. Brett Dorfman and his colleague, Dr. Esa Bloedon.

The new practice provides a full range of medical and surgical ear, nose and throat treatment for adult and pediatric patients. In partnership with Rex, a member of UNC Health Care, patients have access to all of the resources and specialty care that Rex and UNC have to offer.

Call 919-570-5900 to schedule an appointment.

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