As summer begins, it’s important to understand how certain activities may impact your hearing health, and ways to safeguard your hearing.
Outdoor summer music festivals and concerts, for example, are extremely popular when the weather gets warmer. While some performances are intimate acoustic affairs, others are amplified so loudly they can cause hearing damage. Attending concerts may bring you great joy, but the typical noise level at a concert venue can have a negative, lasting impact on your hearing even from one event. In fact, noise-induced hearing loss is now so common that it affects approximately 15% of adults in the US.3,4 Many people are unaware of these risks, so they don’t take proper precautions.2
Noise affects your hearing differently depending on how loud it is, where it’s coming from, and the exposure time.3,4 Eighty-five decibels (dB) for an 8-hour shift is considered safe for the workplace, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, but for everyday noises, NIOSH recommends keeping it under 70 dB.5 But don’t worry, the fact that noise-induced hearing loss may be associated with certain hobbies doesn’t mean you need to give up your favorite pastimes. You just need to become more aware of the kinds of activities that may expose you to unsafe levels of sound, so you can begin to take precautions.
Activities That Pose a Risk
There are certain activities that pose a greater risk for unsafe noise levels. If you participate in any of the pursuits below, it’s important to think about hearing protection so that you can continue to enjoy these activities without suffering long-term damage to your hearing.3,4
Music – Listening to music with headphones, attending concerts, or playing an instrument can increase your chances of hearing loss.5
Using power tools – Lawn maintenance or home improvement tasks can expose you to loud sounds over an extended period of time.
Hunting, sport shooting, fireworks – Sudden loud noises can cause hearing damage.
Sporting events – Cheering crowds have been measured at 130+ decibels.6
Motorsports – Motorcycles, quads, and even boats can expose devotees to damaging levels of wind and motor noise.
Awareness is Key to Prevention
If you enjoy activities that put your hearing health at risk, there are steps you can take to continue to enjoy them responsibly. When participating in activities with unsafe noise levels, simply wearing appropriate hearing protection can go a long way in reducing the risk of damage to your ears. This means earmuffs or ear plugs. Earmuffs come in different varieties and protection levels based on the activity. Any ear protection is better than none, and can range from inexpensive over-the-counter foam plugs to those custom-fitted by a hearing care professional to the precise size and shape of your ears.6 Be smart! If you think it might be too loud, it probably is.
With most cases of noise-induced hearing loss, damage to the ear from loud sounds adds up over time, and changes in your hearing are often not easily noticed. Getting a baseline hearing test is the best way to measure changes to your hearing over time. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss your risks for hearing loss and the appropriate protection with a hearing expert.
Above all, make sure to schedule regular visits with your hearing care professional for a hearing test to ensure you are doing enough to protect your hearing. Regular check-ups allow you to take early action, if needed.
1Blackwell DL, Lucas JW, Clarke TC. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat. 204;10(260).
2Murphy WJ, Eichwald J, Meinke DK, Chadha S, Iskander J. CDC Grand Rounds: Promoting Hearing Health Across the Lifespan. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018;67:243–246. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6708a2.