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Tips to protect your hearing

By Daniel Waters, Contributing writer
Published On: May 25 2011 09:56:44 AM CDT
ear

iStock / zwolafasola

Hearing loss can affect anyone at any age. Frequent exposure to loud noise at work or for leisure can damage your hearing forever. However, it can be hard to know how loud is too loud.

Sound is measured in decibels denoted as dB(A). The following chart shows a number of common situations and their respective decibel level: - 20 dB(A) is a quiet room at night
- 60 dB(A) is ordinary conversation
- 70 dB(A) is a city street
Sounds Over 80dB(A) Can Damage Your Hearing:
- 80 -120 dB(A) is a night club
- 110dB(A) is a pneumatic drill nearby
- 110 - 120 dB(A) is a rock concert
- 130 dB(A) is an airplane taking off 100 meters away
- 140 db(A) is the threshold of pain for many people
A good rule of thumb is that if you can't talk to people two meters away without shouting, it means the noise level is dangerous and you should take precautions to protect your hearing.

If you've ever been to a club or listened to loud music on your MP3 player and then found you either have ringing in your ears or that you can't hear properly for a few hours afterwards, then your ears are telling you that the sound was too loud.

Methods Of Protecting Your Ears

How you should protect your ears depends upon the given situation, so here are some examples of common aural dangers and what you can do to protect yourself.

Going To A Club?
- Use chill out areas to give your ears a rest.
- Avoid dancing or standing beside loud speakers.
- Wear earplugs designed for clubs if you go clubbing regularly. They will reduce the level of sound hitting your ears, but they won't impair the variety of tones, ensuring the music sounds the same.

Going To A Concert Or Festival?
- Stand away from the loud speakers.
- Take regular breaks from the music to give your ears a rest.
- If you want to watch the main act at the front of the stage, watch the support from farther back.
- If you regularly go to concerts and festivals, again, wear specially designed earplugs. They only cost the price of a CD.

MP3s, Personal Stereos
The advent of music downloads has made personal listening devices more popular than ever. Unfortunately, their close proximity to the ears means they can have a very damaging affect on your hearing if they are not used sensibly.- If you can't hear external sounds when you've got your headphones on it's probably too loud.
- Take regular breaks from your headphones to give your ears a rest.
- Turn down the volume a notch -- even a small reduction in volume can make a big difference to the risk of damage to your hearing.
- Avoid using the volume to drown out background noise, for example, the sound of the train or traffic.
- Use headphones rather than ear phones, as headphones block external noise so you don't need to increase your volume to hear the music.
- Some MP3s have volume-limiting software that keep the output at a safe level.

Protection While Shooting
The sound of a gunshot is easily loud enough to damage your hearing, so it's critical that you always wear ear protection. The three main options available are ear plugs, ear muffs and electronic hearing protection. Muffs provide more protection than plugs, but a good set of plugs is still better than a poor set of muffs. Electronic protection generally refers to electronic muffs which often have a tone and volume control so you can amplify sounds and frequencies as well as block them.

It is important to understand that once your hearing deteriorates it will not come back and often you won't know the damage you have done until it catches up with you in later life.

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