Capt. Jennifer Noetzel
Chief, Fort Drum Hearing Program
Did you know that you can permanently lose your hearing from prolonged exposure to noise?
Thirty-six million Americans have hearing loss. One in three developed hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that tinnitus (ringing or other noises in the ears) and hearing loss are two of the most common service-connected disabilities.
Approximately $1.1 billion in disability compensation was paid for these two conditions in fiscal year 2009 and this number continues to rise, as Soldiers and Civilians support noise-hazardous operations unprotected.
October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. The Fort Drum Hearing Program staff and audiologists across the nation are encouraging Americans and Soldiers to protect their hearing by:
wWearing hearing protection when around sounds louder than 85dB for 30 minutes or more.
wWearing hearing protection when firing weapons whether during training exercises or recreationally.
wTurning down the volume when listening to the radio, TV, MP3 player or anything through ear buds and headphones.
wWalking away from loud noise.
Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the microscopic hair cells, or cilia, which are found in the inner ear. Cilia are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot be repaired or grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.
The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 dB, such as concerts, sporting events, lawnmowers, fireworks, MP3 players at full volume, and more. A brief exposure to a very intense sound, such as a gun shot near the ear, also can damage your hearing.
Earlier this year, there were many news stories about the vuvuzela horns at the World Cup and the threat they pose to the hearing of fans and players. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vuvuzelas were measured at a decibel level of 131 at the opening game and 113 at two meters away (louder than a chainsaw). This August, FIBA, the international governing body of basketball, banned vuvuzela horns at all of its games, citing that they can cause permanent hearing damage in closed basketball arenas.
The American Academy of Audiology supports FIBA’s decision to ban vuvuzelas from their games and encourages healthy hearing practices at all sporting events.
Consumers need to be aware that there is danger of noise-induced hearing loss at many sporting events, not simply those allowing vuvuzelas.
wThe level of noise at the 2010 Super Bowl was measured at 102 dB.
wThe level of noise at game two of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 reached 122 decibels during the national anthem.
An environment is too loud and considered dangerous if:
wYou have to shout over background noise to be heard.
wIt is painful to your ears.
wIt makes your ears ring during and after exposure.
If you have decreased or “muffled” hearing for several hours after exposure, that is a sign of temporary or possibly permanent hearing damage.
Hearing loss not only affects your ability to understand speech, but it also has a negative impact on your social and emotional well-being. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur gradually over time, and people don’t often realize they are changing the way they live to make up for the disability.
If you suspect you may have hearing loss, make an appointment to see an audiologist. He or she will perform a hearing test to determine the type and severity of hearing loss you may have.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact the Fort Drum Hearing Program, located in Clark Hall, at 772-3622.