Home is said to be where the heart is. Our safe and comfortable space to retreat to. We fill it with people and treasures and necessities, but could all that we fill it with also be damaging our hearing? Experts say, yes, but a few simple considerations could make all the difference.
The hearing loss numbers
An estimated 38 million adults in the United States report some level of hearing loss. Often that hearing loss is the result of noise that damages the delicate workings of the inner ear. As our world becomes noisier and noisier, it is more important than ever to recognize common risks and takes steps to minimize them. That starts in our very own homes.
Hearing loss at home
At first thought, you may think of your house as more sanctuary than auditory danger. When you take a closer look, it can be surprising to see just how many things in your home could put you at risk of hearing loss.
1. Ototoxic drugs – Many common household pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen as well as certain antibiotics and loop diuretics are part of a group of drugs known as ototoxic medications. Ototoxic medications “cause functional impairment and cellular degeneration of the tissues of the inner ear.” If these are in your medicine cabinet, discuss dosage and options with your doctor.
2. Entertainment (TV, stereo) – Televisions and stereos (not to mention personal listening devices like mp3 players, tablets and phones used with headphones) are a standard in many homes and often provide a background soundtrack to life inside the home. On average, a comfortable volume for a television or stereo is 70 decibels, but it is easy for this volume to be turned up posing a risk to hearing. There is also debate over how safe even this comfortable decibel level is over an extended period of time. In the U.S., 85 decibels is generally considered safe over a long period of time, but some groups specify 70 decibels should be the maximum. Even others suggest exposure to 55 decibels or more over a period of time can damage hearing.
3. Loud appliances – Like televisions and stereos, many of the appliances in our homes can come with a serious side of noise that often exceeds safe levels. The Quiet Home Lab provides an extensive list of common appliances and how many decibels they frequently contribute to your home including:
● refrigerator: 50 db
● air conditioner: 50-75 db
● dishwasher: 55-75 db
● vacuum cleaner: 60-85 db
● food processor: 80-90 db
● hair dryer: 60-95 db
4. Outside – It’s not just inside the house that your hearing may be at risk. Often, the tools we use to maintain the outside of the house also operate at unsafe noise levels. Those may include:
● power lawn mower: 65-95 db
● leaf blower: 110 db
● power drill: 95 db
Preventing hearing loss at home
Your home can be a safe haven for ears when you follow steps like these to help protect your hearing and prevent noise-induced hearing loss:
1. Do your research: Many household tools and appliances now come with more information on how loud they are when operating. This in addition to the many new options that are quieter overall, can help you find the most hearing-friendly choices for your home.
2. Hearing protection is a must: Earplugs, ear molds, noise-canceling headphones and other protective solutions can help to reduce your exposure to noise, especially when using louder tools and appliances.
In addition to protecting your hearing, regular hearing evaluations for you and your family can help identify hearing loss early. Identifying and managing hearing loss can help prevent further loss in the future.
If you’re ready to take control of your hearing health, contact our office to schedule an appointment today.