By Samantha Georgson | Illustrated by Ann Christianson
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss by 2050. The organization even has a “Make Listening Safe” initiative aimed at young people going to concerts and walking around with earbuds in all day.
The bad news is that any damage you do to your ears is irreversible. The good news? It’s entirely preventable. Veronica Heide, a local audiologist and founder of Audible Difference, breaks down the various situations that might call for a little extra protection and the measures you can take to keep your ears safe.
Ultimately the key is to “use the right tool for the job,” says Heide. When it comes to using headphones or earbuds, you should “turn down the volume on your personal listening devices and limit the length of time you use them,” she explains.
For concerts and other loud environments, there are tools such as SPLnFFT, a noise meter app you can put on your phone that will measure the level of noise around you. It will even tell you how long your ears can withstand that volume.
Of course, if you don’t have an app handy, Heide relies on an easy-to-remember rule of thumb. “If you have to shout to be heard over the noise, it is probably loud enough that you need hearing protection if you are going to stay in that environment for more than a few minutes.”
Heide recommends carrying ear protection on you at all times.
“Carry inexpensive soft foam earplugs with you in case you unexpectedly find yourself in an uncomfortable level of loud noise. Foam earplugs are great for reducing sound from loud recreational noise such as sporting events, power tools and gunfire,” she says. “If you are a professional musician or someone who attends lots of concerts, you may want to invest in custom musician’s earplugs from your audiologist.”
Your ears will thank you for taking the necessary steps to protect your hearing. “Hearing protection is key in saving your ears for a life of ease of communication and the ability to enjoy all of the sounds we love to hear,” says Heide.