Protect Your Hearing During Summer Activities

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As summer gets into full swing, Luna Family Hearing is urging children and adults to protect their hearing, reminding them that noise-induced hearing loss cannot be reversed.

Summer is full of fun and the wonderful sounds of being outdoors with family and friends. But all of our fun summer adventures bring along with them noise that can be harmful to our hearing! Prolonged exposure to the roar of lawn mowers, power tools, motorized recreational vehicles, target shooting, concerts, loud sporting events, and fireworks can all damage our hearing. In fact, the single bang of a firecracker at close range, sitting too close to the loudspeakers at a concert, and other seemingly harmless sounds can permanently damage hearing in an instant, making it forever more difficult to hear the subtler sounds of summer, like the birds that chirp outside.

While many noisy recreational activities are part of summer’s activities, it is extremely important to take precautions to ensure that these activities do not damage our hearing.

“Noise is the most common causes of hearing loss for adults,” states John Luna, CEO of Washington and Oregon’s Luna Family Hearing. “A combination of the loudness of the noise you are exposed to and the length of time you’re exposed to it are critical factors in the damage that can be done to your hearing. Luna Family Hearing recommends taking some simple measures to protect your hearing while still enjoying your summer activities.”

Here are some simple tips to follow:

Use over-the-counter earplugs: When you know you will be exposed to loud sounds, use earplugs. Disposable earplugs, made of foam or silicone, are typically available at local pharmacies. They are practical because you still can hear music and the conversation of those around you when you have them in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they are effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.

Use Custom ear protection: Visit one of our 11 Luna Family Hearing offices and have custom ear protection crafted to fit each unique ear. Custom protection ensures a proper fitting mold each time, further reducing the risk of unwanted noise exposure. Custom hearing protection is available for many types of activities: From musicians ear plugs, motorcycle ear plugs made to go under helmets, swimming ear plugs to protect from cold water and swimmer’s ear infections, hunting/shooter’s ear molds, and custom earmolds for occupational hearing protection.

Leave the fireworks to the professionals: Make sure your family and friends fully enjoy the summer and all its fireworks festivities by celebrating smart. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. When watching the show, stay a safe distance away—where you can enjoy the colors and lights, but not expose yourself and your family to loud noises. To protect your hearing, make sure you are wearing earplugs and that they are securely in place before the show begins. And be sure to keep them in for the entire show.

Keep the volume down: When listening to music through your smartphones and MP3 player, keep them at a low volume. Importantly, limit your use of headphones and earbuds. Custom earmolds can be made for earbuds to provide the best fidelity while keeping the volume at a reasonable level to protect your hearing.

As a reminder, many MP3 devices have volume limiters in the settings where you can set the maximum volume level to protect your hearing and that of your children – use these limiters! For example, for Apple iPhone users under “Settings,” “Music,” “Volume Limit” you can turn the feature “On” and then select the maximum volume setting.

Limit your time in noisy environments: Do all you can to limit the length of time you spend in a noisy environment. And when you do participate in noisy activities, alternate them with periods of quiet. OSHA recommends no more than 15 minutes or less per day of continuous exposure of sounds over 115dB before damage is likely to occur to a person’s hearing. If you are at a loud event, concert or otherwise, you really need to monitor your noise environment. There are “apps” for free or little money for most smartphones that you can use to get a basic idea of how loud of an environment you are experiencing.

Take measures to protect against swimmer’s ear: Be sure to dry your ears completely after swimming. And do your best to drain any residual water from your ear canal by tilting your head to the side. Also, monitor the bacterial count when swimming at the beach. Many beaches post signs. Stay out of the water on the days that the bacterial counts are high. Custom swimmers ear plugs are available for regular recreational swimmers to keep water out of the ears.

Visit your local hearing healthcare professional: A hearing healthcare professional can provide a hearing test to determine your baseline hearing level and determine if you have any hearing loss that should be addressed. Hearing healthcare professionals also can provide custom-fitted ear protection to help you preserve your hearing. Luna Family Hearing offers a free hearing test at its 11 locations.

“Hearing, like eyesight, should be part of your annual health evaluation if you are over 40 years old,” says Luna, “and if you, or someone close to you, notices that you are having difficulty hearing certain sounds or voices, especially in noise environments like a restaurant, then it is time to come in for a baseline hearing test. I cannot state it strong enough to those around loud noise - protect your hearing when you are around loud noise!"

How Noise Effects Our Hearing
We hear sound when delicate hair cells in our inner ear vibrate, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. But just as we can overload an electrical circuit, we also can overload these vibrating hair cells. Loud noise damages these delicate hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing of the ears). The cells that are the first to be damaged or die are those that vibrate most quickly–those that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds clearly, like the sounds of birds singing and children speaking.

Loudness is measured in decibels, with silence measuring at 0 dB. Any noise above 85 dB is considered unsafe. Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 dB, presenting the risk of irreversible ear damage. Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health as well. If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm's length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are other warning signs:

--You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area.
--You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.
--You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but cannot understand them.

For more information on custom hearing protection and/or hearing loss, please visit Luna Family Hearing ay lunafamilyhearing.com. To take a free hearing test, please call 1-855-HEAR-NOW to schedule an appointment at one of the 11 convenient Luna Family Hearing locations; eight locations in Washington (Wenatchee, Everett, Edmonds, Bellevue, Renton, Tacoma, Puyallup, Vancouver), and three locations in Portland, Oregon.