Approximately 20 percent of people in Omaha have hearing loss to some degree. If you think they are all old, guess again: the top cause of hearing loss in Nebraska is noise, and that is something that affects individuals of all ages. One of the biggest contributing factors is music.
What type of hearing loss is caused by loud noise?
Whether you attend concerts, play guitar in a band or simply enjoy listening to music through earbuds or headphones, you are putting your hearing at risk unless you take precautions. Loud music can cause permanent hearing loss if you aren’t careful.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a top health concern not only in Omaha, but across the U.S. Exposure to loud sounds can cause irreversible damage to the sensory hair cells in the cochlea. These guys are responsible for converting sounds into electrical impulses that are forwarded to the brain for interpretation; when they are damaged or die, the signals become altered. Any sound that exceeds 85 decibels (dB) can cause harm; the louder the sound, the less safe exposure time you have before risking long-term hearing loss. NIHL can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The more you are exposed to loud sounds, the higher the likelihood your condition will become permanent.
What are the three types of hearing loss?
There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural and mixed. NIHL is a type of sensorineural hearing loss; this occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. It is the most common type of hearing impairment (responsible for about 90 percent of all cases) and cannot be reversed. Most people with this type of hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids or, in severe cases, cochlear implants. Conductive hearing loss affects the outer or middle ear and is often correctable with medications or surgery. Mixed hearing loss, as its name applies, affects both the inner and middle/outer ears.
How loud is too loud for your ears?
If you think the music in your earbuds or headphones isn’t very loud, you might be surprised to learn that decibel levels average between 94 and 100 dB if you have the volume turned all the way up, and may get as loud as 139 dB. Keep in mind that the average conversation measures around 60 dB and it becomes clear that listening to music that loud can lead to irreparable loss of hearing.
Reduce the risk of noise-related hearing loss
To reduce your risk of long-term damage, your Omaha audiologist recommends adopting the “60/60 rule”: listening to music at 60 percent of maximum volume for 60 minutes at a time and taking a break afterward to give your ears a chance to recover. You should also consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, which generate a sound wave that is 180 degrees opposite of the pitch of background noise, effectively cancelling it out and allowing you to listen to music at lower (safer) volume levels.
For more information on safe listening habits, contact an audiologist in Omaha today!