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Sporting events and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

With August comes the start of a new school year, and also the beginning of football season. While many people enjoy the atmosphere of game day, they don’t always recognize that sounds could be loud enough to damage their hearing. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 40 million U.S. adults may have noise-induced hearing loss. The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. The chart below shows the average decibel levels for many common sounds.

Source: The American Academy of Audiology

As the chart shows, sporting events such as football games can reach levels of 110 decibels or more! Exposure to this level of noise over several hours can be damaging to your hearing. The Guinness world record for the loudest NFL crowd noise was set by the Kansas City Chiefs fans in 2014. The roar of the crowd was measured at an ear-shattering 142.2 decibels!

Even smaller scale sporting events can have noises loud enough to damage hearing. It’s a good idea to bring a pair of earplugs with you, just in case sounds reach loud levels. If you are concerned you may have noise-induced hearing loss, you should schedule a hearing evaluation with an audiologist to learn more about your hearing. We only get one pair of ears, so it is important to protect your hearing as much as possible.  

Types of Hearing Protection

One of the prominent causes of hearing loss is excessive noise exposure. For many patients, they have grown up hunting and target shooting, or have worked many years in a very noisy job. Unfortunately, one the damage from noise has been done, there is no way to reverse it. Instead, we ask all of our patients to use hearing protection when they are going to be around excessive noise.

There are different types of hearing protection. The one that works the best is the one that you will wear consistently and properly.

Styles:

  • Over the ear: These devices look like headphones, or are sometimes referred to as “Mickey Mouse ears” due to their bulk.  These cover the external part of the ear and block out many external sounds.
  • In the ear (non-custom): These devices are generally available at drug stores and are made of foam or plastic.  Non-custom devices fit into the ear with a tight fit and come in an array of sizes.
  • In the ear (custom): For a more secure fit, custom molded hearing protection can be made. This requires a silicone-like mold of your ear to be made, then sent to an outside company for crafting. These are typically a rubber-like material.

Types of Sound reduction: Hearing protection can be divided into two categories of sound reduction; active and passive.

  • Passive: Passive hearing protection uses the physical piece as the method of blocking the sound. These are less expensive than active hearing protection as there is no electronics within the devices. The foam hearing protection that is seen at drugs stores is a form of “passive” hearing protection. Passive hearing protection can be custom and non-custom.
  • Active: Active hearing protection uses not only the physical properties of the device, but also electronics to reduce sound.  Active hearing protection uses external microphones to analyze sounds in the surrounding area, then shut off when a loud sound is identified. Many hunters utilize active hearing protection to hear their environment, but the sound of the firearm is reduced. Active hearing protection can be custom or non-custom.

Here are some situations where Hearing protection should be utilized:

  • Hunting/shooting
  • Power tools, including lawn mowers
  • Noisy work environments – factories, mills, military, aircraft

If you are interested in custom hearing protection, JHBI can help. We are able to take custom molds and order both active and passive hearing protection.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss and Custom Hearing Protection

Exposure to loud noises is a common cause of hearing loss among the population. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is characterized by a “gradual, progressive loss of high frequency hearing sensitivity that usually presents as a “notch” that occurs at or around 4000 Hz.” For more information on noise induced hearing loss, visit http://american-hearing.org/disorders/noise-induced-hearing-loss/ .

How can you protect your hearing? There are many ways to prevent NIHL, such as:

  • Avoid or limit exposure to dangerously loud sounds
  • Decrease the volume of music systems
  • Move away from loud sound sources when possible
  • If you must be around loud sounds, use appropriate hearing protection
  • What kind of hearing protection devices are available?


At The Hearing Center, we offer a variety of hearing protection devices. Common devices include:

1. Swim plugs are designed to prevent moisture from entering the ear canal during swimming, showering and water sports
2. Shooter’s protection is designed to protect hunters/shooters from impulse noises up to 160 dB peak SPL. These devices can be made with special acoustic filters that allow for awareness of conversation and the ability to track animals. Industrial noise protection- Some work places require workers to wear custom hearing protection due to exposure to dangerous sound levels. Employees who work in industrial factories, construction sites and around aircraft equipment are likely to be required to wear hearing protection. Specialized devices can be made that can connect to radios for those who work in jobs that require radio use.
3. Musician earpieces provide hearing protection for musicians who practice and perform in a variety of settings. Depending on the source and location of the sound, different levels of attenuators can be used in the earpieces to allow for optimal hearing protection.
4. Custom sleep plugs can be used to promote interrupted sleep.
5. Custom fit ear tips for mp3 players or other headphones are designed to have standard earphones fit into a custom fit ear tip. These earplugs help block excessive environmental noise and allow the listener to turn down the music volume.

If you believe you have a noise induced hearing loss, or are at risk of one, make an appointment with your JHBI audiologist to discuss a custom hearing protection option that is suitable for your needs!

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month!

This October is National Protect Your Hearing Month!

Over 12 million Americans have hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise, or noise-induced hearing loss. The audiologists here at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute as well as audiologists across the country are encouraging individuals to protect their hearing by:

  • Wearing hearing protection when around sounds louder than 85dB for 30 minutes or more.
  • Turning down the volume when listening to the radio, the TV, MP3 player, or anything through ear buds and headphones.
  • Walking away from loud noise.

How Does NIHL Occur?

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the microscopic hair cells which are found in the inner ear. They are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot be repaired or grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.

How Loud is Too Loud?

The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 dB, such as concerts, sporting events, lawnmowers, fireworks, MP3 players at full volume, and more. A brief exposure to a very intense sound, such as a gun shot near the ear, can also damage your hearing.

An environment is too loud and considered dangerous if you:

  • Have to shout over background noise to be heard.
  • It is painful to your ears.
  • It makes your ears ring during and after exposure.

If you have decreased or “muffled” hearing for several hours after exposure, that is a sign of a temporary change in hearing, which can possibly lead to permanent hearing damage.

What Kind of Hearing Protection Does JHBI Offer?

To prevent noise induced hearing loss, the Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance offers a wide range of hearing protection devices that are custom-made to fit the unique curvature of an individual’s ear. These devices attenuate loud sounds and can be used in any environment that can potentially damage hearing sensitivity; from concerts, to sporting events, and even to the firing range.

If you are interested in meeting with an audiologist to discuss custom hearting protection options to fit your lifestyle, contact the Hearing Center at 904-399-0350 to make an appointment.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in the Military: A History

A Brief History

The introduction of the jet engine aircraft in the late 1940s and early 1950s raised concerns about hazardous noise and was one of the most important occurrences to the subsequent development of hearing conservation programs (Nixon, 1998). No sound of the jet engine’s magnitude had ever been routinely experienced in the military or by civilians. In 1952, the Navy conducted a study to evaluate the effects of the jet engine noise on personnel aboard the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea. The study verified the seriousness of the high-intensity noise problem. In response to the problem, the NAS-NRC Armed Services Committee on Hearing and Bioacoustics (CHABA) was established in 1952 (Nixon, 1998). It was their job to examine the areas of (a) effects and control of noise, (b) auditory discrimination, (c) speech communications, (d) fundamental mechanisms of hearing, and (e) auditory standards. CHABA members were at the forefront of hearing conservation program (HCP) development. They began sponsoring and publishing reports related to noise in the military. They went on to publish a Memorandum No. 2 on “Hearing Conservation Data and Procedures” in 1956. The Memorandum described components of a hearing conservation program and provided recommendations for their implementation.

In 1956, the Air Force was the first to establish a comprehensive hearing conservation program. The Regulation was revised in 1973. Both were model programs after which many organizations within and outside the government were created (Nixon, 1998). In 1978, the Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 6055.3 was published and contained requirements that attempted to make all hearing conservation programs uniform across services. By 1980, the three branches (Air Force, Army, and Navy) had established hearing conservation programs in compliance with DODI (Nixon, 1998). In 1987, the DODI was revised. The most current DODI is 6055.12, and ensures that all services have a hearing conservation program implemented and these programs should include: a) sound measurements, b) engineering control measures, 3) noise labels in hazardous areas/on equipment, d) issuance of hearing protective devices, e) appropriate education to all personnel working around hazardous noises, f) routine audiometric testing which is to be stored in the Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System (DOEHRS), g) access to materials, h) record keeping through DOEHRS, and i) program performance evaluations (DOD, 2010).

NIHL in the Military

Northeast Florida is home to many military installations, including Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport, Kings Bay Naval Base, Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Naval Aviation Depot Jacksonville, and Marine Corps Blount Island Command, which together provide employment to more than 50,000 active duty, reserve, and civilian men and women. As of 2011, there were 2,226,883 military members in the United States serving (including active duty, National Guard, Air National Guard, and reserves). Within the military population, an estimated 60% of veterans returning home from war have a hearing loss (CDC, 2013). Disabilities of the auditory system, including hearing loss and tinnitus, are the third most common injury experienced by veterans (Helfer, Canham-Chervak, Canada, & Mitchener, 2010). As far back as World War II, handguns, rifles, artillery rockets, ships, aircraft carriers, vehicles, communications devices, and many more, have been sources of potentially damaging noise levels (Humes et al., 2006, p. 201). Hearing is critical to the performance of military personnel, and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a severe impairment that can potentially reduce military effectiveness.

Several studies have been conducted to document reports of military hearing loss and tinnitus and effects due to noise. Results from a study conducted in 2010 using data between 2003-2005, found that a total number of 88,285 hearing impairment and noise-induced hearing related injuries (NIHI) were documented—unspecified hearing loss, tinnitus, perforations of tympanic membrane, acoustic trauma, impairment of auditory discrimination, etc. (Helfer et al., 2010). Overall, NIHI visits were reported for 9.6 per 1000 personnel.

How Does NIHL Occur? How Can It Be Prevented?

            The How

Loud noises destroy the ear’s special cells, called “hair cells.” They lie within the sensory organ of the ear, called “the cochlea”. The cochlea cannot regrow new hair cells. Once they have become permanently damaged, they are no longer a useful part of the cochlea. Hair cells are important because they help translate sound into a signal the brain interprets, or “hears.” The hair cells can be damaged significantly by a single impulse sound — gunfire, for example, or by prolonged noise exposure at levels that are harmful to healthy hair cells (greater than 85 dB).

            Prevention

Prevention is key in helping to reduce the number of military members and veterans with NIHL. Hearing conservation programs are a step in the right direction. Hearing protection devices, such as passive and active earplugs and earmuffs will also aid in prevention when used properly. Engineering controls to help reduce excessive noise levels should also be implemented. Most importantly, education about the dangers of hazardous noise levels is paramount to further reducing the incidence of NIHL in military members and veterans. Over the past several years, all branches of the military have been making strides towards better education about hearing loss and taking steps towards providing the best hearing protection for soldiers.

For the general population, three strategies you can use for prevention are: 1) walk away- at further distances, dangerous noise levels are not as harmful to your ears, 2) turn it down- if you have the ability, make sure you are listening to things at safe levels, reference the dB level above, and 3) protect your ears- always have a pair of earplugs or muffs on hand when you go to concerts, loud sporting events, hit the shooting range, etc. And just remember, currently, there is no cure for hearing loss, so try to protect the healthy hair cells you have!

References:

DoD. 2010. Department of Defense Instruction 6055.12: DoD Hearing Conservation Program. Washington, DC: Department of Defense

Helfer, T. M., Canham-Chervak, M., Canada, S., & Mitchener, T. A. (2010). Epidemiology of hearing impairment and noise-induced hearing injury among U.S. military personnel, 2003-2005. American Journal of Preventative Medicines, 38(1S), S71-S77. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.10.025

Humes, L. E., Joellenbeck, L. M., & Durch, J. S. (2006) Noise and military service: Implications for hearing loss and tinnitus. Washington, DC: National Academies Press

Nixon, C.W. (1998). A glimpse of history: The origin of hearing conservation was in the military? Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH: U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory

 

Hearing protection devices

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Exposure to loud noises is a common cause of hearing loss among the population. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is characterized by a “gradual, progressive loss of high frequency hearing sensitivity that usually presents as a “notch” that occurs at or around 4000 Hz.” For more information on noise induced hearing loss, visit http://american-hearing.org/disorders/noise-induced-hearing-loss/ .

How can you protect your hearing?

There are many ways to prevent NIHL, such as:

  • Avoid or limit exposure to dangerously loud sounds
  • Decrease the volume of music systems
  • Move away from loud sound sources when possible
  • If you must be around loud sounds, use appropriate hearing protection

What kind of hearing protection devices are available?

At The Hearing Center, we offer a variety of hearing protection devices. Common devices include:

  • Swim plugs are designed to prevent moisture from entering the ear canal during swimming, showering and water sports
  • Shooter’s protection is designed to protect hunters/shooters from impulse noises up to 160 dB peak SPL. These devices can be made with special acoustic filters that allow for awareness of conversation and the ability to track animals.
  • Industrial noise protection- Some work places require workers to wear custom hearing protection due to exposure to dangerous sound levels. Employees who work in industrial factories, construction sites and around aircraft equipment are likely to be required to wear hearing protection. Specialized devices can be made that can connect to radios for those who work in jobs that require radio use.
  • Musician earpieces provide hearing protection for musicians who practice and perform in a variety of settings. Depending on the source and location of the sound, different levels of attenuators can be used in the earpieces to allow for optimal hearing protection.
  • Motorcyclist’s protection is designed to help eliminate wind noise under a helmet.
  • Custom sleep plugs can be used to promote interrupted sleep.
  • Custom fit ear tips for mp3 players or other headphones are designed to have standard earphones fit into a custom fit ear tip. These earplugs help block excessive environmental noise and allow the listener to turn down the music volume.

 

If you believe you have a noise induced hearing loss, or at risk of one, make an appointment with your JHBI audiologist to discuss a custom hearing protection option that is suitable for your needs!

 

Can listening with earbuds cause you to need hearing aids?

Everywhere you look people are walking around with earbuds in their ears listening to music or talking on the phone. Although extremely convenient, audiologists want to warn you of the potential hazards this can cause to your hearing. Some good tips on avoiding using earbuds today and having to wear hearing aids tomorrow.

  1. Be aware of the volume: It is recommended that the volume on devices that you are listening to should not exceed 60-80% of maximum volume. “The World Health Organization recommends at or below 60% of maximum volume.”
  2. Don’t listen for too long: Especially for kids it is recommended that earbuds should only be used no more than 1-2 hours a day. Excessive exposure can lead to noise-induced hearing loss (see our article on NIHL and ways to protect your hearing https://www.betterhearingjax.com/noise-induced-hearing-loss/).
  3. Protect your hearing you have now: It is recommended earplugs should be used whenever you are in a loud environment, such as a football game or enjoying your favorite music at a concert. This will protect your hearing you currently have as well as prevent NIHL.
  4. Tinnitus: We all have experienced that ringing you get once you leave a concert or loud and noisy environment. But if the tinnitus lasts much longer than you’re used to, it is wise to see an audiologist and discuss the tinnitus, as this can be a sign of noise-induced hearing loss.
  5. Get your hearing checked: Having a baseline hearing test is always a good idea. This will allow for comparison every time you get your hearing checked. Every few years is recommended to keep your hearing healthy.

 

If you believe you are at risk for noise induced hearing loss, make an appointment with your JHBI audiologist to discuss a custom hearing protection option that is suitable for your needs!

Are Football Games Too Loud?

Football: Loud, proud and…noisy!

The beginning of fall signals the start of some very important things: cooler weather, pumpkin beverages and, of course, football season. Whether you are a fan of the NFL or the NCAA, you know how exciting it can be to root for your team in a stadium filled with fans cheering their hearts out. You might have also noticed how LOUD that same situation can be.

It is not unusual for pro and collegiate football stadiums to reach noise levels well over 100 dB, sometimes even into the 120s or 130s (for reference, a power saw produces sound levels of approximately 110 dB). In fact, teams often consider it a point of pride to have the loudest stadium in the league. While this can make for an energizing atmosphere for players and spectators alike, it can also be very dangerous for the hearing of anyone in that environment, especially for an extended period of time. How harmful a sound is can be determined by analyzing two factors: intensity of the sound and duration spent listening.

Check out an earlier JHBI blog post (https://www.betterhearingjax.com/noise-induced-hearing-loss/) to learn the specifics of noise induced hearing loss and review professional guidelines on maximum exposure times allowed in various levels of sound. It’s easy to see how loud football games, which may average 80-90 dB of noise but have frequent peaks into the 100+ dB range, can quickly cause permanent hearing damage. So, what can you do to protect your ears and cheer on your team at the same time?

The easiest solution to prevent noise damage is to wear ear plugs or muffs consistently when in a loud environment. Many hearing healthcare professionals have started initiatives to provide hearing protection to fans at sporting events and as a result, it is becoming more common to see people of all ages and hearing levels protecting their ears. Even the tiniest of fans need to be kept safe from noise exposure!

So the next time you are packing for your tailgate, be sure to include hearing protection for everyone attending the game. To learn more about custom earplugs, check out an earlier blog (https://www.betterhearingjax.com/can-music-cause-hearing-loss/) or speak to your audiologist.