According to the CDC, out of a growing population of 48 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, one in every four will be diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss. With hearing aids, assistive listening devices in public places, and other treatment options, your quality of life can drastically improve, but preventative care is just as important as treating existing hearing loss. Being informed about which locations can be damaging to your hearing is a great step in hearing loss prevention, and may even catch you by surprise. Whether you’re out to dinner or treating yourself to a day of shopping, everyday environments may be louder than you think.
According to an estimate by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to noise levels high enough to cause irreversible hearing loss. This has lead to at least 20,000 annual cases of occupational hearing loss, and an estimated 24% of all hearing loss being attributed to the workplace. This is especially prevalent in certain career fields that utilize heavy machinery or for those in the military. Construction, manufacturing, and even public transit can be hard on the ears, exposing you to potentially harmful decibel levels on a near-constant basis. Wearing proper ear protection such as industrial grade earplugs is a great way to protect yourself at work, but limiting your exposure time is the most effective solution.
A night out with friends at your favorite dinner spot may be a great way to celebrate or spend an evening, but it may also lead to hearing damage. According to a 2014 Zagat restaurant survey, respondents identified excessive noise as one of the top complaints, ranking higher than even prices! If you find yourself having to yell across the dinner table to hold a conversation, you’re more than likely being exposed to damaging volumes.
With taunts, chants, and cheers, sporting events have an electric atmosphere that can get anyone out of their seats. Though the raucous environment is part of the fun and culture, it can lead to serious hearing damage. Prolonged exposure to volumes higher than 85 decibels is enough to get your ears ringing, but some sporting events have broken volume records that can cause instantaneous damage to your hearing. At a 2014 Kansas City Chiefs game, Arrowhead Stadium recorded a crowd roar that reached a record 142.2 decibels, making it the loudest sporting event and reaching levels high enough to cause immediate damage.
Like sporting events, concerts usually have a similar high energy atmosphere, but unfortunately, a night out may come at a price: your hearing. With volume levels around 115 decibels on average, concerts are notorious for having your ears ringing long after the show has ended. Earplugs are a great way to enjoy your favorite band while reducing your chance of hearing damage. With various colors ranging from skin-colored, black, or white, they usually go completely unnoticed as well.
The hustle and bustle of the big city attract millions of tourists every single year, but can it also damage your hearing? The short answer is yes, and in more ways than you might think. Police and ambulance sirens are common, and public transport such as trains, subways, and buses can be enough to have you covering your ears.
If you are experiencing prolonged ringing or changes in your hearing after being in any of these five places, you may have damaged your hearing. Receive a hearing evaluation by your hearing health professional and discuss ways to receive treatment or how to proactively protect your hearing in the future.