May is Better Hearing Month – Protect your ears!

Dear Readers,
An estimated 3 million Canadians have hearing loss. One in three developed their hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise.What’s worse: Noise-induced hearing loss is the only preventable cause of permanent hearing loss! Remember how your mom always told you to “take a sweater” to prevent catching a cold? Well, your audiologist will always tell you “wear your hearing protection” to prevent permanent hearing loss. We all know mom knows best, but why don’t we listen?
This May, Better Hearing Month, audiologists across the country are encouraging Canadians (again and again) to protect their hearing by:

  • Wearing hearing protection when around sounds louder than 85dB for a long period of time;
  • Turning down the volume when listening to the radio, the TV, MP3 player, or anything through ear buds and headphones; and
  • Walking away from loud noise.

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in our inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.

Normal inner ear hair cells
Damaged inner ear hair cells

The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 (dB), such as concerts, sporting events, lawnmowers, fireworks, gun shots,  car stereos at full volume, and more. A brief exposure to a very intense sound, such as a gun shot near the ear, can also damage your hearing. So, not only is the volume of sound important to consider, but also the amount of time someone is exposed to harmful volume levels. Noise is considered dangerous if you have to shout over background noise to be heard, it is painful to your ears, it makes your ears ring during and/or after exposure, or if you have decreased or “muffled” hearing for several hours after exposure.
Hearing loss, caused by noise or other factors, not only affects your ability to understand speech but it also has a negative impact on your social and emotional well-being. If you suspect you may have hearing loss, or are regularly exposed to loud noise, make an appointment to see an audiologist.
An audiologist will perform a comprehensive hearing test to determine the type and severity of hearing loss you may have. Your audiologist will make recommendations based on the results of your test to help correct for existing hearing loss and prevent further damage to your ears. If you work in noisy environments or take part in noisy hobbies, recommendations can also be made for the best type of hearing protection for you, such as muffs, custom plugs, musician’s plugs, etc.
Thanks for reading!

Sources: The American Academy of Audiology, Speech-Language & Audiology Canada