LiveSmart: Enjoy the Sounds of Summer Safely

[This piece was written by Debra Trees, Au.D., CCC-A, Doctor of Audiology, Audiology Supervisor at St. Peter’s Hospital Hearing and Speech.]

From backyard barbecues to concerts and fireworks, summer can be a great time. But there’s a summer danger that’s painless, odorless, tasteless, invisible and toxic: noise-induced hearing loss.

Among working-age Americans, roughly one in seven has high-frequency hearing loss. However, a noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. And hearing aids that are both effective and unobtrusive can restore hearing to a great degree.

The pounding noise from rock concerts or an MP3 player is an obvious source of hearing problems. However, just one firecracker that explodes close to the ear can cause irreversible hearing damage. And repeated exposure to noise from lawnmowers and leaf blowers, power tools, motorcycles and firearms can gradually cause hearing damage. The noise permanently destroys the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear.

You enter the red warning zone for hearing problems at 85 decibels, or the sound of heavy traffic. Normal conversation is about 60 decibels. A rock concert may reach 120; motorcycles, fireworks and small firearms can hit 150.

You may be developing a hearing problem if you have a vague sense of pressure in the ears, talk from others seems to be muffled or you have a ringing that persists even in a quiet room.

Healthy People 2020, a collaborative initiative of several federal government agencies, targets reducing hearing loss from noise as one of its main goals for hearing health. Noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable. To protect this precious resource, just ask these simple questions: How loud? How long? How close? And follow these tips:

  • If the person next to you can hear the sound out of your earphones: IT’S TOO LOUD!!
  • Ditto if you must shout to be heard or if you can’t hear another person two feet away.
  • Wearing hearing protection is simple and effective. You can purchase foam plugs made for noise reduction and even keep a pair in the car to use at any time.
  • Protect the ears of young kids, even at outdoor summer block concerts.
  • If you suspect you have a hearing problem (such as having a constant ringing in the ears), see your physician and have a hearing test conducted by an audiologist.

St. Peter’s Hearing and Speech Department in Slingerlands (518-475-1818) offers comprehensive care for hearing problems from diagnosis through rehabilitation. Children and adults can be tested and if appropriate, fit with hearing devices that can make it easier to hear the sounds of life.


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