A Yale University Study from May 2000 established that noise exposure is the second-most common cause, after aging, of acquired hearing loss.
We’ve known for well over 20 years about how noise damages your hearing, but the CDC estimates that 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years (about 5.2 million) and 17% of adults aged 20–69 years (close to 26 million) have permanent damage to their hearing caused by excessive exposure to noise.
Fortunately, hearing protection can help prevent this type of hearing loss.
We’d like to explain how and encourage you to do all you can to protect your ears with custom molded earplugs.
Three Reasons to Protect Your Hearing
We all assume that hearing loss won’t affect us until we’re old, but it can come a lot sooner, as the statistics we already cited attest. According to the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so let’s take a quick look at three reasons to protect your hearing.
Your hearing is fragile
The inner ear is an amazing system but also an extremely fragile one. As you age the components in the inner ear deteriorate, just like your eyesight, but how you treat your ears can speed up or slow down that process.
Damaged hearing can’t be repaired
Once you’ve damaged the delicate components of the inner ear there’s no going back. No surgical technique or medical treatment can reverse the damage caused.
Tinnitus can drive you mad
One of the worst complaints of those with hearing loss caused by noise exposure is tinnitus, an ongoing ringing or buzzing sound in their heads that won’t go away. Chronic tinnitus often leads to poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, high levels of stress, and more.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL): The Number-One Cause of Hearing Loss for People Under 69
As mentioned earlier, hearing loss from exposure to loud noise is the second-most common cause of hearing loss overall, but it is the primary cause of hearing loss for those under the age of 69.
Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Noise-induced hearing loss can be the consequence of a one-time exposure to a very loud sound, blast, or impulse, or ongoing exposure to loud sounds over an extended period.
According to the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH), exposure to loud noise overworks hair cells in the ear, causing the cells to die. As long as the exposure continues, the damage continues, and the harmful effects can compound hearing challenges even after noise exposure has stopped.
Tragically, between 30 and 50 percent of hair cells can be damaged or destroyed before changes in your hearing can be measured by a hearing test. By that time there is nothing we can do to fix them.
Recognizing Damaging Noise
After leaving a very loud event, like a nightclub, concert, or football game, you may notice that your hearing is muffled, and you may hear buzzing or ringing (tinnitus) in your ears. Though your hearing returns to normal after a few hours or few days, you’ve already experienced damage to the inner ear.
Here are some rules of thumb from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to recognize whether the sounds around you are too loud:
- You find yourself speaking loudly or shouting so people at arm’s length away can hear you. (Or you have trouble hearing someone talking at a conversational volume when you’re an arm’s length away.)
- The noise hurts your ears.
- Your ears buzz or ring during the noise or after the noise goes away.
How Custom Molded Earplugs Provide Better Hearing Protection
Avoiding exposure to loud environments and effectively using personal hearing protection devices have been shown to prevent hearing loss, according to the 2013 report from the National Research Agenda for the Prevention of Occupational Hearing Loss.
Generic earplugs and earmuffs do protect your ears against damaging noise, but to ensure that you’re getting enough protection and the right kind of protection, custom molded earplugs are a better option. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Better Value. In the short term, regular disposable earplugs seem like better value for money, but if you add up the number of earplugs you go through during a typical year, the cost rises substantially.
- Superior Comfort. Custom earplugs are molded to fit the unique contours of your ears, so they’ll stay in place better and feel more comfortable.
- Better Hygiene. Generic earplugs have thousands of tiny pockets that can gather dirt and bacteria, while custom versions have a smooth surface, cutting the sanitary risk.
- Longer Lasting. Custom earplugs from your audiologist are made of more robust materials that allow you to take them in and out multiple times without causing them to deteriorate.
- Easy to Clean. A soft bristle brush with water will get rid of most debris on your custom plugs.
- Better Sound Protection. Because of a better seal, you get better sound protection. Additionally, many custom models come with filters that can be changed and used for activities with different sound environments.
- Better Draining. Custom earplugs offer better drainage than their disposable counterparts, limiting issues with earwax buildup.
Are activities that have the potential to damage your hearing a part of your lifestyle? Rather than giving them up, consider custom earplugs to prevent damaging your ears and continue hearing the life you love longer.
Learn More About Custom Hearing Protection
Your ears are finely tuned and delicate instruments that can easily be damaged by loud noise.
Unfortunately, that damage can never be repaired once it’s lost.
Greensboro, North Carolina’s best choice for preventing damage to your hearing is custom hearing protection, which we make available at Aim Hearing.
Click here if you want to learn more about our custom hearing protection options, or give us a call at (336) 295-1064.