—by Jeff Jurmain, MA
Not to beat the fear-mongering drum, but just in the interest of medical news, researchers have just reminded us of summertime’s effect on our hearing. Many common sounds of the summer months can expose our delicate eardrums to hearing loss. Even permanent hearing loss.
The news comes from Ball State University’s audiology clinic in Indiana. In the summer, when we are outside in the elements for far longer periods of time, many sounds that ring through the air are in the range of 90 to 140 decibels. These include fireworks going off, the sound of buses and trucks, a lawn mower, and even music during a parade.
Any noise higher than 80 decibels is loud enough to trigger potentially long-term hearing damage.
In a news release, researchers at Ball state write: “We are living in a society that gets louder every year. Now that the weather is warmer, we are exposed to all sorts of sounds that can lead to permanent hearing loss. The average person will wear a helmet when riding a bike, or a seat belt in a vehicle, but doesn’t even think about ear protection when going to watch a rock band, a fireworks display, or even an auto race.
It’s probably safe to say we take out ears for granted. We wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from ultraviolet rays, but rarely consider protective devices for our hearing. Some of the symptoms of hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds include hearing muffled speech, having pain in the ears after the noise, having ringing in the ears after the noise, requiring others to speak more loudly so you can hear them, or not being able to hear someone who’s only a few feet away.
Hearing loss generally is caused by damage to the inner ear. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the ear that send sound signals to the brain. When these hairs or nerve cells are damaged or missing, electrical signals aren’t transmitted as efficiently and hearing loss occurs.
The key in all this is to prevent the problem in the first place. Hearing loss is a serious issue and is not reversible. The best methods to help yourself: pop in ear plugs or other forms of hearing protection when you know you will be amid possibly loud noises. Your ears will thank you.