By Colin VanBergen/Contributor
Noise exposure is the second leading cause of hearing loss after age-related hearing loss.
In my 16 years of working as an audiologist, I have fit hundreds of people with hearing aids due to their noise-induced hearing loss.
While these individuals are very appreciative of the benefits their hearing aids provide, each one of them wishes they had done a better job of protecting their ears from harmful noises when they were younger.
When we look at the impact that loud sounds have on our ears we need to consider two primary factors—loudness and duration.
It has been well established that we run the risk of permanent hearing loss when exposing ourselves to 85 decibels (dB) of noise for eight hours a day.
If that noise level is increased by a mere three dB, the amount of time it would take to put us at risk for hearing impairment is cut in half to four hours a day.
If we increase the noise level another three dB (from 88 dB to 91 dB) the time it takes to cause hearing loss is yet again cut in half—to two hours.
We can continue this line of reasoning up as high as we want until we eventually get instantaneous hearing loss with a single exposure to an extremely loud impact sound like an explosion or the firing of a high powered rifle.
These same two factors —loudness and duration —are also at play when we listen to music.
While you definitely need to be very careful to not overdo it when listening to music, the hearing damage from listening to music s actually not as bad as many believe.
When will listen to music it is not typically for hours and hours at a time.
If you think of a typical teenager, they will listen to music anywhere from five to 60 minutes at a time, and they may do this a few times throughout the day.
While the sensory cells of the inner ear are being stimulated at a very high rate, this only happens for short periods throughout the day with long periods of rest in between.
So the sensory cells have a chance to rest and recuperate during the times of relative quietness.
The general principle for listening to music is the “60-120 rule.” You can listen to your iPhone or MP3 player at 60 per cent volume for two hours a day.
This amount of noise exposure is well within a safe level, still allows your ears to be exposed to other loud sounds (i.e. such as a lawn mower) in the same day, and still is not a risk for hearing loss.
It will also allow you to crank up the volume for your favourite song, provided that the volume is set back to 60 per cent for the next song.
Treat your ears with care. Use them, don’t abuse them.
Once you lose your hearing it is gone forever.
Colin VanBergen, M.Sc. Aud., is an audiologist/owner of NexGen Hearing in Kelowna and is co-owner of NexGen Hearing in West Kelown contacted reached at 100-1940 Harvey Ave. (in Spall Plaza).