Prevention of Hearing Loss
Losing your hearing can negatively affect your overall health.
Even if you’ve already experienced hearing loss, it’s crucial to protect your ears from further damage. Here are some of the best tips for preventing hearing loss.
- Limit your exposure to loud music or noise.
- Wear some form of hearing protection – including earplugs, noise-canceling headphones or earmuffs – if you are going to be near motorized lawn equipment, motorcycles, fireworks, power tools or firearms.
- Listen to your TV, car stereo, MP3 player, tablet and smartphone at lower volumes.
- Regularly let your ears rest for at least five minutes in a quiet place during a loud concert or sporting event.
- Don’t use cotton swabs to clean wax out of your ear canal. This may damage your eardrum.
- Keep your ears dry to avoid ear infections that may damage your hearing. Consider using custom earplugs while swimming to avoid getting water in your ears.
- Exercises such as walking, running and cycling benefit all parts of your body, including your ears.
- Find ways to manage your stress so you can alleviate the effects of tinnitus.
- Avoid medications with side effects that may affect your hearing.
OSHA Requirements for Hearing Protection
As a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set workplace standards to protect the hearing of American workers who may be at risk for hearing loss. The loudness in a workplace is measured using decibels (dBA), which measure how loudly the ear perceives sounds.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that all worker exposure should be less than 85 dBA for no more than eight hours to reduce the risk of occupational, noise-induced hearing loss. If the noise level remains above 85 dBA for an eight-hour shift, the employer must have a written hearing conservation program in place. A sound level meter is used to measure noise levels in work areas.
If a sound level meter isn’t available, you should use the 2-to-3 foot rule. If you have to raise your voice to be heard by a coworker standing two to three feet away, you should assume that the sound level is at or above 85 dBA.
What Is the Best Hearing Protection for Me?
The two main forms of hearing protection commercially available are earplugs and earmuffs. Earplugs will work well for you if you have a noisy workplace – such as an airport, factory, foundry or construction site. There are mass-produced and individually-fitted models available. Earplugs are also available in reusable or disposable styles. They are typically less expensive than earmuffs and less susceptible to heat or moisture.
If you are hypersensitive to noise, or simply find it difficult to concentrate without complete quiet, then noise-canceling earmuffs may work best for you. Noise-canceling earmuffs are popular among individuals with autism, ADHD, hyperacusis and misophonia. They are bulkier and more expensive than earplugs, but most models are still inexpensive.
How Do I Wear Hearing Protection Properly?
If you are uncertain how to wear your ear protection device at work, ask us. Your employer will also have detailed information about the proper fit of the device to help you avoid noise leaks in your specific work environment. With earplugs, you can check the fit by gently pulling on them. The plugs should stay in the ears and not move easily. If they do move, remove them and re-insert them deeper in the ear canals.
Whether you wear earplugs for work, at home or during recreational activities, you must take proper care when removing them. You should always twist the earplug gently to break the acoustic seal before removing. This is particularly important when wearing custom-fitted earplugs.