Hearing loss is one of those issues which creeps up gradually on you without it necessarily being apparent for quite some time. Until, that is, you realise you can no longer hear the television unless the volume is much higher, and you struggle to hear what people are saying in busy places such as bars.
The nerves and hairs of the inner ear are incredibly delicate – a fact that very often we ignore. Hearing loss generally occurs because of sustained and prolonged damage to the nerves, and as with any nerve damage, there is no cure.
A hearing impairment can affect a wide range of aspects to your life, from work to socialising, and it's surprisingly easy to subject your hearing to prolonged and potentially damaging noise without even thinking about it.
Permanent hearing loss is likely to occur as a result of any sound above 85 decibels. So any noise 85 decibels and above is likely to cause noticeable hearing impairment. If you work in a factory or noisy industrial environment you will probably be required by law to wear ear protection, but no ear protection is required in many other circumstances where the volume may be at least as severe.
Applause in an auditorium is around 85 decibels, as is a telephone dial tone. Neither of these is generally considered loud, yet this is all the volume required to cause hearing loss, if it is sustained.
MP3 players generally play music between 85-120 decibels. A couple of hours of this every day will certainly lead to hearing loss within five years.
People working on an aircraft carrier deck are required to wear ear protection by law because of the very real damage that can occur, but at 140 decibels, it's actually no louder than an average rock concert.
Just 20 decibels louder (the equivalent of a mosquito or a whisper) and the ear drum will break instantly, resulting in severe or total hearing loss.
If you're already detecting the signs of hearing loss you may be considering having a hearing test, and this will certainly identify the range and extent of hearing loss, helping you on the way to obtaining a form of hearing aid appropriate to your needs. For anyone who suspects that they have suffered a degree of hearing loss, reducing exposure to sustained loud noise is certainly likely to help reduce any further damage, and having a hearing test will provide you with the information you need to assess what your needs are in terms of a solution.
A hearing test is provided free through the NHS for most people, although private hearing test clinics will be able to provide a more accurate and complete picture, ensuring that any solution is tailored more effectively to your specific needs and degree of hearing impairment.
A hearing impairment is permanent, but loss of hearing needn't be.
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