October is National Protect Your Hearing Month
Did you know that October is National Protect Your Hearing Month and National Audiology Awareness Month? These official, recognized months were designated by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to help raise awareness about noise-induced hearing loss, the only known kind of preventable hearing loss. In conjunction with the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), the NIDCD hopes to help spread the word about the importance of protecting your hearing from loud noises you may encounter everyday: construction work, traffic, music playing through your headphones, and all the different kinds of loud noises people in many different professions are exposed to as a result of their jobs.
Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and can build over time. In fact, a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that as much as 16% of teenagers already report some hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise. This hearing loss will not go away and could get worse as the teenagers age if they don’t take precautions in the future. Since it’s an audiologist’s job to evaluate, diagnose, and treat hearing disorders, audiologists are particularly interested in helping the public understand the ways they can protect their hearing from this very common and preventable cause of hearing loss. (That’s why October is also National Audiology Awareness Month – many people do not even know what an audiologist does.)
The most fundamental three steps recommended to protect your hearing are:
- Lower the volume – If you can control the level of noise around you, like from televisions or stereos, turn the volume down to where you can also hear other noises in the room.
- Move away – If you can’t control how loud something is, put some distance between you and the noise. The farther away you are from the noise, the less likely it is to damage your hearing.
- Wear protection – Try earplugs or earmuffs if you can’t leave a noisy place.
Sometimes, you may not even realize just how loud some noises can be, especially if you are used to them. For instance, the sound of a lawn mower while mowing can be dangerous after long or repeated exposure. It’s a good idea to wear earplugs when mowing or using power tools. Even a loud blender can be damaging if you use it often enough. For more information on the decibel level (loudness level) of common noises, see this free publication or this family-friendly website.