Promoting Hearing Health

While there appears to be a link between hearing loss and dementia in seniors, a lot more study about the reasons for the link is needed. Researchers also plan to look into whether treating hearing loss early may reduce the risk of health problems later in life.

And that, of course, brings up the question of how to best protect your hearing in the first place. Philip Griffin, an audiologist with Now Hear This Audiology and Hearing Solutions in Raleigh, provided these tips.

The risk of hearing loss is influenced by several things:

  • Noise Level — The louder the noise, the greater the risk.
  • Duration — The longer the noise lasts the greater the risk.
  • Sudden noise — Noises that have sudden starts and stops—fireworks, hammering, or gunshots—are more dangerous than a loud, constant noise at the same level.
  • Intermittency — A period of quiet in between loud noise allows the ear to rest and reduce the risk.

Consider those risks when looking over these tips:

  1. Turn down the music: Don’t listen to your iPod or other music device at a very high volume. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t hear external sounds when you’ve got your headphones or earbuds in, the music is too loud. It’s also too loud if the person next to you can hear the music you are listening to.

  2. Turn down the volume: The same rule applies to your TV because a small reduction in volume can reduce the risk to your hearing. If you need to raise your voice to be heard above the sound, then the sound is too loud.

  3. Use earplugs: Remember the louder the noise and the longer you’re exposed to it, the greater the risk to your hearing. If you’re around loud noise at home or work, such as machinery in a factory, a power saw or a leaf blower, use earplugs.

  4. Be careful in the car: Listening to loud music in a confined space, such as a car, is also a risk.

Whatever you are doing, give your ears time to recover after they’ve been exposed to loud noise. You need at least 16 hours of rest for your ears to recover after spending about two hours in a 100dB sound. That’s about the level of sound in a club or from a motorcycle. 

— Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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