About 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss in the U.S. Your Houston ear, nose and throat specialist estimates that one in five Houston residents are affected. The common perception that hearing loss only affects the elderly is incorrect; people of all ages can develop a hearing impairment — especially when noise is involved.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Texas
Noise is the top cause of hearing loss in Texas. Exposure to sounds louder than 85 decibels (dB) can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for converting sound into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain for interpretation. This can result in permanent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Your safe exposure time depends on the volume level; sounds measuring 85 dB – roughly equivalent to city traffic in Houston – can be tolerated for eight hours without harm, but every three-decibel increase above that cuts your safe listening time in half. This means at 100 dB, you only have fifteen minutes before irreversible damage might occur.
Fortunately, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. By wearing hearing protection, Houston residents can significantly reduce the risks of damage to their ears. And when listening to music, especially through headphones, keeping the volume down is extremely important.
The Hazards of Headphones
Headphones represent one of the biggest contributors to hearing loss in Houston. While maximum output levels vary between manufacturers, they typically range from 75 dB all the way up to 136 dB. When listening to music in this range, damage can occur very quickly. Around 50 percent of teenagers and young adults in Houston between the ages of 12 and 35 are exposed to unsafe volume levels from personal audio devices; an estimated 5.3 percent of teenagers alone experience hearing loss due to loud music, a number that experts believe will continue to grow.
To reduce your risk of hearing loss when listening to headphones, your Houston ENT doctor recommends adopting the following strategies.
- When listening to music through headphones, keep the volume down and limit your use. Adopt the 60-60 rule, which stipulates that you listen to music at no more than 60 percent of maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes at a time.
- The type of headphones you wear matters, too. Noise-canceling headphones utilize technology that creates sound waves to block outside noise; this allows you to listen at a lower volume level since you do not have to turn the music up in order to hear it over external noises. Some models automatically adjust volume levels based on how long you’ve been wearing them and how loud you are playing your music.
- Finally, learn to recognize the signs of hearing loss. If your ears are ringing after wearing headphones, your music is too loud. It’s a good idea to take a break from listening every 15 minutes or so regardless.
For more information on noise-induced hearing loss and strategies for safe headphone use, contact a hearing care specialist in Houston.