Vacuum cleaners, leaf blowers, rock concerts, chainsaws, and music players can all produce noise above safe listening levels, notes audiologist and ASHA member Natalie Gibbs in a recent interview with The Telegraph—a newspaper serving Macon, Georgia, and surrounding areas. Gibbs describes hearing loss prevalence and causes, including the previously mentioned noisemakers.
The audiologist also explains how prolonged exposure to something as seemingly benign as a vacuum cleaner can cause hearing loss. She calls attention to the potential danger of using common items at home or for recreation and not using hearing protection. She cites the threshold of 85 decibels and above as the danger zone.
Working in an unregulated industry that deals in noise, musicians stand to benefit from audiologists’ support to preserve their hearing.
Although repeated and continuous loud noises are usually the culprit, Gibbs adds that hearing loss can occur even after just one instance of a noise 140 decibels or louder. She makes a compelling argument for wearing hearing protection in myriad everyday situations—at work and at home—for even brief exposure.
“A jet taking off is rated at 140 decibels and instant hearing loss can happen at that level,” Gibbs says. “Exposure over time is harmful, but I’ve had people come in with hearing loss from just one gun blast.”
Gibbs also discusses the high rates of hearing loss among older adults, saying two-thirds of the U.S. population over the age of 70 has hearing loss significant enough to need treatment from an audiologist. And noise-induced damage to hearing over time can amplify the effects of typical age-related decline.
“The factors [aging and noise exposure] are so closely tied, you can’t just tease out one from the other,” Gibbs states in the article. “Wear hearing protection. I can’t say it enough.”
Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for the Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org.