Studies show that hearing loss can
affect anyone at any age, regardless of his/her background
or occupation. According to the CDC, Impairments in hearing
can happen in either frequency or intensity, or both.
Hearing loss severity is based on how well a person can hear
the frequencies or intensities most often associated with
speech. Severity can be described as mild, moderate, severe,
or profound. The term "deaf" is sometimes used to describe
someone who has an approximately 90 dB or greater hearing
loss or who cannot use hearing to process speech and
language information, even with the use of hearing aids. The
term "hard of hearing" is sometimes used to describe people
who have a less severe hearing loss than deafness.
Intensity, or loudness, is
measured in decibels (dB). A person with hearing within the
normal range can hear sounds ranging from 0 to 140 dB. A
whisper is around 30 dB. Conversations are usually 45 to 50
dB. Sounds that are louder than 90 dB can be uncomfortable to
hear. A loud rock concert might be as loud as 110 dB. Sounds
that are 120 dB or louder can be painful and can result in
temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss can affect one or
both ears. A loss that affects one ear is called a unilateral
loss. A loss that affects both ears is called a bilateral
There are four main types of
Hearing loss caused by a problem in the outer ear or middle
ear. Conductive losses usually affect all frequencies to the
same degree. These losses are not usually severe.
Hearing loss caused by a problem in the inner ear or auditory
nerve. A sensorineural loss often affects a person’s ability
to hear some frequencies more than others. This means that
sounds may be appear distorted, even with the use of a hearing
aid. Sensorineural losses can range from mild to profound.
A combination of conductive and sensorineural losses.
Hearing loss caused by a problem along the pathway from the
inner ear to the auditory region of the brain or in the brain
Reference: CDC website
One-third of hearing loss is
preventable by wearing hearing protection. There are many ways
to prevent hearing loss from overtaking your life. Knowledge
is key to understanding hearing loss and preventing it. Here
are some helpful tips to prevent a noise-induced hearing loss
from occurring or getting worse.
- Wear earplugs/ear muffs when exposed to noisy activities for
any given time period. People who operate equipment such as
mowers, heavy equipment, chainsaws should wear earplugs/muffs.
These devices are usually found at a local pharmacy or general
- Do not listen to radios or televisions at a loud level.
- Listening to pc, telephones, etc at a loud level can
encourage or induce the effect hearing loss.
Which protective device is right for you? Expandable foam
plugs These plugs are made of a formable material designed to
expand and conform to the shape of each person's ear canal.
Roll the expandable plugs into a thin, crease-free cylinder.
Whether you roll plugs with thumb and fingers or across your
palm doesn't matter.
What's critical is the final result—a smooth tube thin enough
so that about half the length will fit easily into your ear
canal. Some individuals, especially women with small ear
canals, have difficulty rolling typical plugs small enough to
make them fit. A few manufacturers now offer a small size
expandable plug. Pre-molded, reusable plugs Pre-molded plugs
are made from silicone, plastic or rubber and are manufactured
as either “one-size-fits-most” or are available in several
sizes. Many pre-molded plugs are available in sizes for small,
medium or large ear canals. A critical tip about pre-molded
plugs is that a person may need a different size plug for each
ear. The plugs should seal the ear canal without being
uncomfortable. This takes trial and error of the various
sizes. Directions for fitting each model of pre-molded plug
may differ slightly depending on how many flanges they have
and how the tip is shaped. Insert this type of plug by
reaching over your head with one hand to pull up on your ear.
Then use your other hand to insert the plug with a gentle
rocking motion until you have sealed the ear canal. Advantages
of pre-molded plugs are that they are relatively inexpensive,
reusable, washable, convenient to carry, and come in a variety
Nearly everyone can find a plug that will be comfortable and
effective. In dirty or dusty environments, you don't need to
handle or roll the tips. Canal caps Canal caps often resemble
earplugs on a flexible plastic or metal band. The earplug tips
of a canal cap may be a formable or pre-molded material. Some
have headbands that can be worn over the head, behind the neck
or under the chin. Newer models have jointed bands increasing
the ability to properly seal the earplug. The main advantage
canal caps offer is convenience.
When it's quiet, employees can leave the band hanging around
their necks. They can quickly insert the plug tips when
hazardous noise starts again. Some people find the pressure
from the bands uncomfortable. Not all canal caps have tips
that adequately block all types of noise. Generally, the canal
caps tips that resemble stand-alone earplugs seem to block the
most noise. Earmuffs Earmuffs come in many models designed to
fit most people. They work to block out noise by completely
covering the outer ear. Muffs can be "low profile" with small
ear cups or large to hold extra materials for use in extreme
noise. Some muffs also include electronic components to help
users communicate or to block impulsive noises. Workers who
have heavy beards or sideburns or who wear glasses may find it
difficult to get good protection from earmuffs.
The hair and the temples of the glasses break the seal that
the earmuff cushions make around the ear. For these workers,
earplugs are best. Other potential drawbacks of earmuffs are
that some people feel they can be hot and heavy in some
Reference: Choose The Hearing Protection That's Right For You
- by Carol Merry Stephenson, Ph.D. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/