(WPRI) — Most of us know loud events, like a concert or fireworks, can damage our hearing. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, things you do every day could also be taking a toll on your ears.
That’s right: the next time you vacuum your house, mow the lawn or take a spin class, you could be doing long-term damage to your hearing. Fortunately, there are some easy things you can do to protect yourself.
And let’s face it — life can be noisy. Every day most of us are exposed to the sounds of traffic, sirens, trains, and alarms, to name a few. All that noise is taking a toll. About 40 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Debra Gold of Newport is one of those people. She says she “struggles to hear my colleagues, hear my friends. It’s hard.”
Gold says she’s determined to not do any additional damage to her hearing. “I know that my years playing in bands and singing has already caused some damage,” she says. “So I definitely want to make sure I maintain what I have and not continue to do damage to that.”
Gold says she now tries to be more aware of potentially damaging noise in her everyday life. And those noises might come from places you wouldn’t expect. According to Dr. Sara Carnevale, a clinical audiologist, those can include “vacuuming, power tools, the lawnmower; if you’re into spinning or Zumba or any of those exercise classes where they jack up the volume.”
Dr. Carnevale’s advice for preventing damage to your ears is simple. “If you’re going to be doing something for more than a half-hour and you have to yell to be heard over it, you should wear some hearing protection.”
Carnevale says the threshold for ear damage is around 85 decibels, the same noise level where OSHA requires hearing protection for employees. If you don’t know what 85 decibels sounds like, Dr. Carnevale has an easy solution.
“You can download a sound level meter app on your phone really easily. There are lots of them, they’re free. And you get an idea if you think ‘maybe it’s too loud in here,’ you can check.”
That’s something Debra Gold keeps in mind now, even when she’s doing something as simple as choosing a restaurant. “I absolutely try to select places that are not going to do more damage to my hearing than I’ve already done,” says Gold.
Hearing loss is usually gradual, so it’s important to get your ears checked every few years, especially if you work in a loud environment.
“If you’re worried, go get your hearing tested,” says Dr. Carnevale. “Most insurance plans will cover an annual hearing test.”
And if you’re wondering, those little earbuds that come with your phone can top 100 decibels, which is loud enough to do hearing damage in 15 minutes. You can, however, buy headphones with a noise limit for yourself or your kids to prevent that problem.
Other suggestions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to prevent hearing loss (download a fact sheet at this link) include carrying earplugs, which can be inexpensive.