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Use ear protection to avoid hearing loss

ear plugs

About 32.5 million people in the United States have hearing loss, which is up by 2.5 million from just a few years ago. Noise exposure causes approximately 30 percent of all hearing loss, yet it can be prevented when you take a few simple measures to protect your hearing.

Loud noises cause damage to the tiny hair cells in your cochlea (your inner ear). Over time, the damaged hair cells no longer work properly, causing sounds to be distorted, which makes speech understanding difficult. The damage is permanent and worsens with repeated exposure to noise. How loud is too loud?

Use this rule of thumb: If you have to raise your voice to be heard over the noise, you may be in danger of damaging your hearing. This includes operating power tools (even the lawnmower and weedeater!), shooting firearms, attending loud music performances, attending KU or WSU basketball or Chiefs games, and driving down the highway with the windows down.

Here’s a simple solution that you can implement today: Keep a simple set of foam earplugs in your purse or glove compartment of your car. Those inexpensive yellow ones from the hardware store or nearest super-center work just fine. To get the maximum noise reduction, be sure you roll the earplug between your fingers to make a tiny cylinder, then pull your ear up and back, insert it deeply in your ear canal, and hold it in place until it expands to fill your ear canal. Wear them every time you find yourself in excessive noise, and you’ll do wonders to protect yourself from hearing loss.

About Susie Ternes

Susie Ternes is an audiologist with Ascension Via Christi Rehabilitation Hospital in Wichita, Kansas.