You can permanently lose your hearing from prolonged exposure to noise
12 million Americans have hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise, noise-induced hearing loss. This October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. Cynthia See, Au.D., Mayo Clinic Health System audiologist at Winneshiek Medical Center Decorah Clinic encourages you to protect your hearing by:
- Wearing hearing protection when around sounds louder than 85dB for 30 minutes or more.
- Turning down the volume when listening to the radio, the TV, MP3 player, or anything through ear buds and headphones.
- Limit ear bud use to 60-90 minutes a day.
- Consider noise cancellation ear phones for fitness center or airplane use.
- Walking away from loud noise.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the microscopic hair cells, or cilia, which are found in the inner ear. Cilia 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 be repaired or grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.” explains Dr. See.
The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 (dB), such as concerts, sporting events, lawnmowers, fireworks, MP3 players 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.
An environment is too loud and 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 after exposure.
If you have decreased or “muffled” hearing for several hours after exposure, that is a sign of temporary and possibly permanent hearing damage.
Hearing loss not only affects your ability to understand speech but it also has a negative impact on your social and emotional well-being. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur gradually over time, and people don’t often realize they are changing the way they live to make up for the disability.
If you suspect you may have hearing loss, make an appointment with Dr. See. “Although most hearing loss is permanent,” says Dr. See. “I’m here to help and together we will determine the best treatment for you, which may include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and hearing rehabilitation.”
Dr. See also works closely with William Remington, M.D., full time Mayo Clinic Health System ear, nose and throat specialist in Decorah. Together they provide specialized hearing care for patients in unique situations with specialized needs so they get exactly the attention they need, when they need it, close to home.
You may not need a doctor’s referral to make an appointment. Audiology services are covered by most insurance companies, check with your insurance provider for details. Quality, economical hearing aid batteries (by the pack or case), audiowipes, dehumidifiers, wax guards and wax loops are now available for purchase at the Decorah Clinic reception desk on the lower level of the clinic. Learn more at www.winmedical.org/audiology or to make an appointment with Dr. See, call 563-382-2911 or visit us online at www.winmedical.org/make-an-appointment.