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Can Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Really Permanently Damage Your Hearing?

Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can make you prone to hearing loss — even exposure to some of the most common sounds many of us hear daily. The grating train or subway noises that define your commute can reach 90 decibels (dB) — significantly loud, considering that noises greater than 85 dB are harmful. Leafblowers and snowmobiles often reach 115 dB, and live music can reach 130 dB. Gunshots and sirens are typically 140 dB or greater.

You’ll know a sound is too loud if hearing it causes ear pain or, while it blares, you can’t hear those around you. Post-exposure symptoms include ringing ears or muffled hearing. If this difficult hearing persists, you are regularly exposed to some of the loud noises described above, and you find yourself asking people to speak more loudly, slowly, or clearly, you might have noise-induced hearing loss.

The good news is that you can proactively avoid noise-induced hearing loss and address any hearing loss you already have. Although there’s no cure for hearing loss, there are easy ways to bridge the gap – learn all about noise-induced hearing loss below.

How can loud sounds cause or worsen hearing loss?

Higher-decibel (louder) sound waves carry more energy. These vibrations (all waves, whether light or sound, vibrate) carry more force when they’re more energetic. The result is that, when high-decibel sounds enter your ear, they have the potential to cause more damage. This can result in what’s called noise induced hearing loss.

This damage occurs in the hair cells lining your ear canal. These cells receive the vibrations that accompany sound waves. They also transmit these vibrations to your brain, which interprets them as sounds. The problem is that, unlike most other cells in our bodies, hair cells don’t grow back once they die. And since high-energy (loud) sound waves can damage and even destroy hair cells. These hair cells cannot grow back, so damaging them can result in permanent hearing loss.

How to protect your hearing

The notion of hearing-induced hearing loss sounds worrisome, but it shouldn’t stop you from doing your job or enjoying your hobbies. The steps you can take to reduce your chances of noise-induced hearing loss are all easy, and they change little about your daily life. They include:

  • Wearing earplugs at loud music shows or events. This step is especially easy to take if you keep earplugs on you at all times. You should also avoid standing right next to any speakers in the venue. You can buy earplugs over the counter at any pharmacy or get fitted for custom earplugs.
  • Wearing earmuffs if you work with loud devices such as power tools. You want large, bulky earmuffs that look like professional headphones. These devices are engineered to mask loud sounds. You can find them at hardware stores, and custom models are available through an audiologist.
  • Using quieter tools if possible. You can find many options on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Buy Quiet list.
  • Turn down the volume. Whether you’re listening to music in headphones or enjoying your favorite TV on speakers, you should adjust the volume so it’s just enough to hear — not that it’s blaring in your direction. Going even a tad louder can be enough to cause hearing loss.
  • Take breaks. When you pause your listening session or step back from noisy work, you reduce your exposure to loud sounds. If you find yourself consistently exposed to loud noises with no protection, you should avoid sounds louder than conversation for 12 to 16 hours afterward.

How to address noise-induced hearing loss

The journey toward restoring your hearing is hassle-free. You can start by scheduling a hearing test with an audiologist. Hearing tests are pain-free and non-invasive, and they’re also easy – you’ll just listen to sounds or spoken words, then react to them as instructed. You’ll see your results on an audiogram that shows the extent of your hearing loss.

Your hearing test can determine the extent of your hearing loss, but it can’t restore your hearing. That’s where hearing aids come in. Hearing aids amplify all sounds that enter the ear, and this volume boost bridges the gaps that hearing loss causes. Many models now offer app-controlled tools that help you adjust hearing in certain situations as needed, and they can be tuned remotely by your audiologist, avoiding making additional appointments. Plus, many hearing aid models are discreet, as these models fit entirely inside the ear or out of view behind it.

Hearing aids are available at many audiology practices, including here at I Love Hearing. Our hearing aid specialists make choosing your hearing aid and properly fitting it easy as could be.

Contact I Love Hearing about noise-induced hearing loss

Whether you spend all day working around loud noises or just love listening to live music, it’s never too soon to prevent or address hearing loss. On the latter front, we at I Love Hearing are eager to help. Visit our offices in Long Island for expert help from audiologists and hearing aid specialists who have spent decades working with all kinds of hearing loss. We’ll test anyone of any age for noise-induced hearing loss and work with you to create a treatment plan. In fact, if you book an appointment for yourself, we will test the hearing of the person who accompanies you to your appointment, free of charge!

Contact I Love Hearing now to book an appointment for your noise-induced hearing loss. Living with hearing loss can feel tough, but in our hands, you’ll once again hear the world around you in all its glory.

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Hearing Loss Types, Causes, and Solutions

Any trustworthy audiologist both understands how to treat hearing loss and knows that the biological mechanisms underlying it might confuse the average person. After all, nobody can look inside their own ear to determine what exactly is causing their hearing loss. That said, all prominent hearing loss types and causes have solutions (though not cures), so below, we’ll demystify the most common hearing loss types, causes, and solutions.

Types of hearing loss

The three primary types of hearing loss are:

1. Conductive hearing loss

  • What it is:Conductive hearing loss is hearing loss that occurs when the outer or middle ear is damaged or blocked, thus stopping the conduction of sound to the inner ear.
  • How it’s caused: Many conditions can result in blockages that cause conductive hearing loss, including excessive ear wax, a narrowed ear canal, ear infections, and fluid buildup.
  • How it’s treated:Temporary conductive hearing loss is typically treated medically or surgically. Permanent conductive hearing loss may require hearing aids.

2. Sensorineural hearing loss

  • What it is: Sensorineural hearing loss occurs in the wake of damage to the ear’s hair cells or auditory nerve. The result is less information about audio volume or clarity for your brain to process.
  • How it’s caused:Sensorineural hearing loss is commonly just age-related hearing loss, though exposure to loud noise can cause it as well. In fact, just one instance of exposure to extremely loud sounds can be enough to cause sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Less commonly, diseases, genetic syndromes, injuries, infections, and cancerous growths can cause sensorineural hearing loss. Ototoxic medications can also cause sensorineural hearing loss, though ototoxic hearing loss is sometimes reversible.
  • How it’s treated: Sensorineural hearing loss is often permanent, so hearing aids are the best paths of treatment. If this hearing loss is tied to a disease or infection, corticosteroids can also help to keep the hearing loss from worsening.

3. Mixed hearing loss

  • What it is: As its name suggests, mixed hearing loss contains aspects of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
  • How it’s caused: Injury or trauma most often leads to mixed hearing loss, as few other circumstances can lead to the obstruction or damaging of all parts of the ear.
  • How it’s treated: Treatment for mixed hearing loss depends on the exact amount of conductive versus sensorineural hearing loss. Surgical or medical treatments may have better outcomes for mixed hearing loss that’s more conductive. For mixed hearing loss that’s more sensorineural, hearing aids may prove more effective.

Degrees of hearing loss

Any type of hearing loss may occur to only a slight or an extreme degree. Audiologists generally acknowledge four such degrees:

  • Mild hearing loss describes difficulty hearing some soft sounds even if it’s mostly easy to understand speech.
  • Moderate hearing loss describes hearing next to nothing if someone is speaking at a typical, everyday volume level.
  • Severe hearing loss describes hearing nothing during a standard-volume conversation and only hearing some loud sounds.
  • Profound hearing loss is mostly the same as severe hearing loss, but it describes an inability to hear anything other than extremely loud sounds.

Other hearing loss descriptions

Audiologists often need just a type and degree to classify hearing loss, but sometimes, the below descriptors help too:

  • Unilateral or bilateral. Unilateral hearing loss occurs only in one ear, whereas bilateral hearing loss occurs in both.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual. In children, pre-lingual hearing loss occurs before the child learns to speak. All other hearing loss is post-lingual.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical hearing loss is the same in both ears, whereas asymmetrical hearing loss is different in each ear.
  • Progressive or sudden. Progressive hearing loss worsens gradually over time, whereas sudden hearing loss occurs quickly and unexpectedly.
  • Fluctuating or stable. Fluctuating hearing loss changes in degree over time, whereas stable hearing loss remains of the same degree at all times.
  • Congenital or acquired/delayed-onset. Any hearing loss with which someone is born is congenital. All other hearing loss is described as acquired or delayed-onset hearing loss. In general, more people experience acquired hearing loss, so audiologists and hearing aid specialists are especially well-versed in treating this type of hearing loss.

What to do if you think you have hearing loss

If you think you have hearing loss of any sort, contact an audiologist for a hearing test. Audiologists such as those at I Love Hearing bring not just decades of experience to the table, but also specialty testing tools suited for all types of hearing loss and patients.

Here at I Love Hearing, we also specialize in offering and fitting hearing aids to address hearing loss (and tinnitus, which isn’t a cause of hearing loss but is surely unpleasant). We offer virtually every reputable hearing aid brand on the market, and we’ll always let you try your hearing aids out before you spend even a penny on them. We’ll work with you throughout the hearing aid choosing and fitting process to meet your individual needs. To address your hearing loss before it potentially worsens, contact us now to book an appointment in one of our four New York metro offices: Port Washington, New Hyde Park, and East Meadow on Long Island, and on the Upper East Side of New York City.

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How Are Hearing Loss and Dementia Related?

Connection between hearing loss and dementia

At some point in our lives, most of us have interacted with an elderly family member who, heartbreakingly, seems unable to understand that we’re speaking to them. You may worry that this phenomenon, which is sometimes a sign of dementia, is inevitable as you or someone you love ages.

Dementia is not itself a disease or disorder but instead a prominent symptom of several conditions. It is perhaps most widely associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and the fatal genetic disorder Huntington’s disease can cause it too. Poor or entirely blocked blood flow to the brain can also result in dementia.

Hearing loss, though incapable of causing dementia, can accelerate or exacerbate dementia caused by the aforementioned conditions. While it’s true that there’s no cure for dementia, you can potentially reduce the severity of dementia by protecting you or your loved one’s hearing now. Here’s what you need to know.

How can hearing loss accelerate dementia?

In people aged 60 and above, the severity of hearing loss is strongly correlated with an increased risk for dementia. This connection may stem from the brain sharing several physiological pathways with the ear – for example, high blood pressure affects both organs. That said, neurologists and audiologists have not definitively determined the anatomical cause of this correlation.

Even without an exact cause determined, the correlation remains clear. A 12-year, 639-participant study from Johns Hopkins University revealed that the more serious one’s hearing loss, the higher their risk of dementia. According to this study, those with mild hearing loss are at twice as high a risk for dementia. Those with moderate or severe hearing loss are at, respectively, three and five times as high a risk.

Otolaryngologist Dr. Frank Lin, who led the study, has said that brain scans show a correlation between hearing loss and faster rates of brain atrophy. This factor could at least partially account for how hearing loss might accelerate dementia. Lin has also theorized that the social isolation common with hearing loss, perhaps due to struggling to hear in conversations, can prove inadequately stimulating for the brain. This lack of stimulation could exaggerate dementia.

How to control hearing loss now

Given all the above about how hearing loss could accelerate dementia, you might feel compelled to schedule a hearing test for yourself or a loved one. After all, people of all ages can experience hearing loss, whether gradual (which is common) or sudden.

No matter you or your loved one’s age, a hearing test is a great first step for mitigating dementia, especially if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. Getting your hearing tested is easy – just contact an audiologist’s office for a checkup.

When you or your loved one sees an audiologist, don’t be shy about discussing dementia, especially if there’s a family history of any condition listed above. The audiologist can then recommend how often you or your loved one should schedule hearing tests. Your doctor should also explain the common signs of hearing loss and what to do if they’re observed. In most cases, you’ll be advised to schedule another hearing test and consider getting hearing aids.

Most modern hearing aids are nearly invisible, so you or your loved one can enjoy a thriving social life worry-free while hearing the world in full clarity.

All these hearing-related steps can help to slow the development of dementia. That said, they aren’t a cure for dementia, nor do they guarantee prevention.

How to help those with hearing loss and dementia

Not everyone will be lucky enough to catch their hearing loss in time to forestall the onset of dementia. To make matters worse, hearing loss and dementia can have similar impacts on a person’s everyday interactions. If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia and they don’t respond to your speech, you can’t quite know if hearing loss or dementia is the culprit.

In this case, you can help your loved one by conducting regular hearing checks. If their hearing is intact, you can assume they’re experiencing dementia. You should also remove any sounds or sights that could make it harder for your loved one to hear what you’re saying or read your lips. Make sure your loved one can actually see your face – a familiar sight can sometimes temporarily break through the challenging haze of dementia.

There’s another especially strong solution for you or your loved one for either dementia or hearing loss (or both). Hearing aids amplify sounds entering the ear to make up for hearing loss, and this extra brain stimulation can occasionally break through the neurological barriers of dementia. Many audiologist’s offices, such as I Love Hearing, also employ hearing aid specialists who make choosing and fitting hearing aids hassle-free.

Contact I Love Hearing about hearing loss and dementia

Whether you’re preventing dementia decades in advance or have concerns about a loved one living with dementia now, we at I Love Hearing would be happy to help. Visit any of our Long Island offices to speak with audiologists and hearing aid specialists who have decades of experience with all types of hearing loss. We’re happy to test anyone of any age for hearing loss, including as it relates to dementia, and help you create a treatment plan. Contact I Love Hearing today to book an appointment – living with or preventing dementia can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

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Ototoxicity And Hearing Loss: What You Need To Know

Most medications come with the potential for side effects, hearing loss among them. Unfortunately, some medications that treat conditions ranging from chronic kidney failure to cancer and even malaria can damage your hearing temporarily or permanently. This damage occurs via a phenomenon called ototoxicity.

What is ototoxicity?

Ototoxicity occurs when medication or an environmental contaminant causes damage to the inner ear. Ototoxic drugs can lead to hearing and balance disorders such as vertigo, tinnitus (ringing sounds in your ears), total loss of balance, or mild to severe hearing loss.

The symptoms of ototoxicity can be temporary or permanent. If your symptoms disappear after you stop taking ototoxic medications (as is often the case), you can safely assume your symptoms were temporary. If not, your symptoms may be permanent. If that’s the case, there are treatment options available to help you manage these symptoms.

Which medications cause ototoxicity?

Several medications are known to cause temporary or permanent ototoxicity, but many ototoxic drugs are not known to doctors or patients just yet. That’s because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not analyze substances’ effects on inner ear function or structure as part of its approval process. As a result, some medications may reach the market and seem entirely safe until audiologists observe correlations between certain drugs and hearing loss.

Given this distinction, the below list of medications that cause ototoxicity may not be comprehensive, though the drugs listed are confirmed to be ototoxic. This list is separated by whether they cause temporary or permanent ototoxicity:

Temporary ototoxicity

  • Aspirin. This common pain medication (which can also treat heart conditions) can temporarily induce tinnitus and hearing loss, particularly at high doses.
  • Loop diuretics. These medications used to treat high blood pressure and edema due to kidney disease or congestive heart failure can cause temporary high-pitched ringing or hearing loss. Common loop diuretics include Bumex, Edecrin, Lasix, and Demadex.
  • Quinine. Unlike many other ototoxic drugs, quinine affects balance, which is connected to inner ear function, and not hearing. These substances, which are used to treat malaria or idiopathic muscle cramps, include chloroquine, quinidine, and tonic water.

Permanent ototoxicity

  • Anti-cancer drugs. Some anticancer drugs can destroy the ear’s hair cells as they kill cancer cells. Cisplatin-based chemotherapy drugs are especially notorious for leading to severe permanent hearing loss, and carboplatin-based chemotherapy drugs can lead to ear damage as well.
  • Aminoglycoside antibiotics. This class of antibiotics is used to treat conditions including cystic fibrosis. It includes amikacin, dihydrostreptomycin, gentamicin, kanamycin, neomycin, netilmicin, ribostamycin, streptomycin, and tobramycin. These antibiotics are more ototoxic if administered intravenously than by pill.

If you see a drug you’re taking on the above list, you shouldn’t immediately stop treatment. Instead, there are other actions you should take first.

What to do if you’re taking ototoxic medications

If you see any of your medications on the list above, speak with your doctor to see if you can replace your ototoxic medication with a similar prescription that has fewer or no hearing-related side effects. You should also inquire as to whether you have any risk factors that make you more susceptible to hearing loss, which can be exacerbated by ototoxic medication. These risk factors include:

  • Impaired kidney function
  • Taking several ototoxic medications simultaneously
  • Age
  • Preexisting hearing loss
  • Pregnancy
  • For anti-cancer drugs, prior exposure to head and neck radiation

Even if you lack these risk factors, you could still experience hearing or balance problems if you’re taking ototoxic drugs. Physical therapy can potentially help you with any balance problems you experience, and audiologists and hearing aid specialists can address your hearing loss.

For example, here at I Love Hearing, we’re happy to provide you with regular hearing screenings as you move through your regimen of ototoxic drugs. This way, we can catch the early signs of ototoxic hearing loss so you can work with your doctor to develop new treatment plans that lessen or avoid ototoxicity.

Ototoxicity and environmental chemicals

Though not drugs, environmental chemicals are important to know when discussing ototoxicity. Exposure to these ototoxic substances can cause permanent hearing loss. They include butyl nitrite, carbon monoxide, carbon disulfide, hexane, lead, manganese, mercury, styrene, tin, toluene, trichloroethylene, and xylene. If you suspect that you are being exposed to these chemicals at work or at home, speak with your doctor to determine next steps and decide the best way to mitigate this risk.

Treat your ototoxicity at I Love Hearing

In the case of temporary ototoxicity, you might just need to switch medications, as your symptoms should gradually subside after you stop taking ototoxic drugs. On the other hand, if you have experienced permanent hearing loss or inner ear damage, then hearing aids may be necessary. Here at I Love Hearing, we specialize in using hearing aids to address all kinds of hearing loss, including ototoxicity, and we’re eager to help all ototoxicity patients.

When you choose I Love Hearing, you get the convenience of choosing from among four different locations in New York City and Long Island. You also get access to every leading hearing aid brand and an unparalleled selection of additional hearing aid companies.

With this flexibility, you can address your ototoxic hearing loss on your own terms. Contact us today to book your appointment and return to hearing the city that never sleeps in all its round-the-clock glory!

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Five Reasons Why People Don’t Use Their Hearing Aids – And How To Address Them

Getting used to a new technology or routine is always a challenge. Today’s hearing aids are remarkable pieces of technology and so are not exempt from this issue. However, almost all hearing aid-related issues have very simple solutions. If you’re using hearing aids and experiencing any of the following challenges, we at I Love Hearing are here to help. That’s why, below, we’ve listed five common hearing aid problems and the common solutions for them.

1. You don’t like the way your hearing aids sound.

The problem: It’s not uncommon for people to feel a bit “off” when they first start wearing hearing aids. Some people may initially find that their voice sounds different through hearing aids, and this discovery can be unsettling. Others may feel that their hearing aids as effective as they thought they would be – or worse – the sounds they hear may be TOO loud!

The solution: Hearing aid specialists such as those at I Love Hearing can adjust your hearing aids to make your voice sound more natural and amplify sounds to a volume level that meets your needs. Auditory therapy, auditory processing evaluations, auditory rehabilitation, and other techniques for improving speech comprehension can help too.

2. You don’t like the way your hearing aids feel.

The problem: The physical sensation of hearing aids in and on your ears may not feel familiar or comfortable at first. You might initially find that your ears are itchy or sweating under the hearing aids. You may also experience some discomfort or pain. These feelings typically subside within two months of consistent hearing aid use.

The solution: Hearing aids typically include several standard and custom ear tips with which a hearing aid specialist can adjust your to your needs. Licensed audiologists can further adjust your hearing aids to address any pain or discomfort. Additionally, since hearing aids come in a variety of styles, you can try a different hearing aid style if your current devices are uncomfortable.

3. You worry about losing your hearing aids.

The problem: Hearing aids are small, so it’s natural to feel like you might lose them. You might also worry that your hearing aids are so small that they may fall right out of your ears, perhaps never to be seen again. After all, it’s one thing to lose an inexpensive device, but it’s another when a pricey, important investment disappears.

The solution: Your hearing aid expert or audiologist will take ample time to securely fit your hearing aids to your ears. This way, your hearing aids aren’t likely to go missing. Here at I Love Hearing, we take both this measure and another important anti-loss step: If your hearing aids have Bluetooth® and GPS, we pair your devices with your smartphone. This way, if your hearing aids go missing, you can locate them with your phone.

4. You worry about how your hearing aids look.

The problem: It is true that even today, stigma around hearing aid use remains prevalent. In fact, some experts believe that worries about embarrassment, shame, or other negative emotions are more of an obstacle to hearing aid use than the cost of the devices themselves.

The solution: Gone are the days of clunky, obvious hearing aids. If anything, hearing aids are now so discreet that they veer on invisible. Some studies have even found that people are more likely to notice that you’re struggling to hear than that you’re wearing a hearing aid. And, of course, the latter solves the former.

5. You worry that hearing aids will make obvious noises.

The problem: Hearing aids may emit feedback if the amplified sound waves that your hearing aids generate escape your ear canal and strike your devices’ microphones. You might worry that others can hear these noises, and even if it’s only you hearing this feedback, it can still be unpleasant.

The solution: Often, a simple hearing aid cleaning can solve feedback issues. More often, you’ll need to see your audiologist or hearing aid specialist for minor adjustments. If you’re still experiencing feedback after cleaning your devices, I Love Hearing can help.

I Love Hearing can solve your hearing aid problems

No matter why you’re hesitating to use your hearing aids, we here at I Love Hearing are eager to reassure you. Our team’s experience troubleshooting all kinds of hearing aid woes spans decades, and we have four offices in Long Island and Manhattan for your convenience. If you decide to switch hearing aid styles or try new devices, we’ll provide you options from nearly every reputable hearing aid brand. With our “try it before you buy it” policy, you’ll get to use your hearing aids in real life first before committing to them, so you can dodge these problems altogether if it’s a question of fit, style, or features. Contact I Love Hearing today to start loving your hearing aids and move further along your journey toward restoring your hearing.

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How To Protect Your Hearing At Every Age

How to protect your ears from hearing loss

Although many people associate hearing loss with age, it’s not explicitly an “old person’s” problem. People of all ages can experience hearing loss. In the U.S., 48 million people experience hearing loss to some degree, but not all of those cases are in those aged 70 and older. Approximately 27 million adults experience hearing loss before they approach senior age. In fact, one in eight people over the age of 12 have hearing loss in both ears.

Even though people at any age can be susceptible to hearing loss, many young people don’t schedule annual checkups like they might at the optometrist for their eyes or at the dentist for their oral health. Not regularly checking in on your hearing can be detrimental in the long run: hearing loss is permanent and irreversible, and years or decades of bad hearing care habits can mean you won’t catch an issue early on. Read on to learn why investing in proper hearing care and protection is vital for people of every age.

Why is regular audiology care important for your hearing and health?

Think about all your annual checkups. You go to the doctor once a year for a routine physical, you visit your dentist twice a year to keep your teeth free of cavities and remove buildup that even the best floss can’t dislodge, and even if you don’t need glasses, you probably see your eye doctor occasionally to make sure your vision is fine. It’s just as important to see an audiologist regularly to make sure you’re not experiencing hearing loss – and even if you have no reason to think you have hearing loss, you might be wrong.

Hearing loss is often thought of as a less dramatic change than a toothache or changing vision – many of us simply turn up the volume and move on without thinking twice. That’s all the more reason to check up on your hearing annually: Most hearing loss is far too subtle to notice and instead manifests in long-term, gradual declines that only become obvious over long periods of time. You likely won’t know that your hearing is declining without regular audiology care.

When you visit an audiologist, your healthcare provider will do more than test your hearing levels. You’ll also learn important tips for protecting your hearing, and you’ll learn more about your hearing protection options. Regularly visiting a hearing professional is the best way to maintain your hearing levels within a healthy range.

How does hearing loss happen?

In people of all ages, hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ears. To understand the science behind hearing loss, it’s important to first understand the structure of your ears. The hole we see in the outer ear leads to the ear canal, which leads to the middle ear. There, three small bones called the hammer, anvil, and stirrup work with the eardrum to propel sound toward your inner ear, which transmits these sounds to your brain for processing.

Hearing loss tends to take place in the ear canal and middle ear. The ear canal is lined with hair cells called cilia that are extremely sensitive to loud, high-volume sounds. When high-decibel sound waves pass over cilia, the cells can be destroyed. Unlike most other cells in your body, cilia cannot be replaced naturally. With each hair cell that gets damaged or dies off, your hearing levels decrease.

Many cases of hearing loss proceed gradually as cilia die, but sometimes, this damage comes on suddenly. Exposure to unexpected loud, high-decibel noise, such as fireworks or a clap of thunder, can result in immediate hearing loss. Disease and traumatic brain injury can also cause non-gradual cilia damage. Despite these hard-to-avoid situations and natural factors such as aging causing hearing loss, most hearing loss is mild enough that a hearing professional can help to address it.

Loud sound exposure: What are decibels and how do they impact my hearing?

Decibels, often represented using the abbreviation dB, are the scientific units used to measure sound. Loud sounds will have much higher decibel levels than quiet sounds. Below are some everyday sounds and their decibel levels:

  • Your breathing: 10 dB
  • Whispers: 30 dB
  • Refrigerator hum: 40 dB
  • Normal conversation: 50 to 65 dB
  • Vacuums and hair dryers: 70 dB
  • City traffic and noise: 80 dB

Noise levels of 85 dB or higher are generally considered high-volume enough to cause hearing loss after prolonged or repeated exposure. Some examples include:

  • Lawnmowers: 85-90 dB
  • Trains and subways: 100 dB
  • Live rock music: 110 to 140 dB
  • Thunder: 120 dB
  • Gunfire: 130 dB
  • Fireworks: 145 dB

Are there different types of hearing loss?

There are two types of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Some cases that include features of both types are called mixed hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is the more common type of hearing loss, affecting nine out of every 10 people with hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss: causes and symptoms

Sensorineural hearing loss describes the hearing loss that accompanies the death of cilia. It also describes damage to the auditory nerve that transmits the inner ear’s signals to the brain. Its most common causes are aging – sensorineural hearing loss tends to most strongly affect those aged 70 and older – and loud noise. Less commonly, it can be caused by certain diseases, medications, injuries, or cancerous growths in your ears.

People with sensorineural hearing loss may struggle to understand people in conversation. It’s especially prevalent when the conversation involves more than two people. Tinnitus can also be a symptom of sensorineural hearing loss, as can dizziness and challenges hearing high-pitched audio. Many people with sensorineural hearing liken their symptoms to “blurred,” rather than muted, hearing.

Conductive hearing loss: causes and symptoms

Conductive hearing loss involves damage to the outer or middle ear instead of to the cilia or auditory nerve. It tends to involve blockage of the ear rather than damage to bodily tissue, so sometimes, conductive hearing loss is reversible – only a hearing professional will be able to determine this for you. Causes of conductive hearing loss include fluid buildup in the middle ear, ear infections, perforated eardrums, earwax buildup, swimmer’s ear, and many other physical obstacles.

People with conductive hearing loss will often hear significantly better in one ear than the other. Pain and pressure in the ears may also accompany conductive hearing loss, whereas sensorineural hearing loss tends to lack physical symptoms. A bad smell coming from the ears or a different perception of your own voice can also indicate conductive hearing loss.

Who is at risk for hearing loss?

Everyone is at risk for hearing loss, no matter their age or profession. Whether you’re younger or older, living in an urban environment with lots of noise or a quieter suburb or rural area, your ears receive audio input regularly, and even the quietest sounds have minor impacts on your ear that can result in hearing loss over extended periods of time.

Everyday activities such as listening to music in your headphones or on a stereo can expose you to volume of enough decibels to cause hearing loss. Your professional life can also expose you to dangerous sound levels. You may need to consider hearing protection if you work in the following fields or enjoy doing the below activities:

  • Landscaping or farming. Running a lawnmower or tractor for more than just a few seconds is enough to cause hearing loss.
  • Garbage retrieval and disposal. Professional garbage workers are regularly exposed to loud sounds from the in-truck compacted.
  • Airport tarmac work. Jet flyovers and takeoffs are among the loudest sounds.
  • Loud tool usage. Jackhammers and power saws can be even louder than jet flyovers.
  • Concertgoing or casual music listening. Stereos can easily emit sound as loud as 110 to 125 dB of volume, and a loud rock show can easily reach 140 dB.
  • Lighting fireworks, setting off explosions, or firing guns. Fireworks, guns, and explosions may be brief, but their impact on your hearing can be lifelong.

How to protect your hearing

Although hearing loss is often considered a normal part of getting older, you can — and should — protect your hearing while you’re young. You can easily protect your hearing with the following measures:

  • Use earplugs. Wear these devices when exposing yourself to sounds of 85 dB volume or more. A 2016 Dutch study showed that earplugs with noise reduction rates of 18 dB can drastically reduce the occurrence of hearing loss among people attending loud rock shows. Earplugs can be purchased from a drugstore or online, or custom earplugs can be made for you.
  • Use earmuffs. Specialized hearing protection in the form of earmuffs or noise-canceling headphones may be a necessity if you work around or are regularly exposed to loud noises. In fields that require this hearing protection, your supervisor may sometimes provide it from the get-go, sometimes called personal protection equipment (PPE).
  • Don’t blast music in your headphones. When using headphones to listen to music, never increase the volume to more than 60 percent of your device’s maximum volume. If you find yourself in environments so loud that 60 percent just isn’t cutting it, opt for noise-canceling headphones.
  • Schedule regular check-ups with your hearing professional. Regularly seeing your audiologist or a hearing professional is the most reliable way to keep track of your hearing and discuss options for protecting your hearing.

Contact I Love Hearing to find the right hearing protection for you

Depending on your work and hobbies, one hearing protection method might work better for you than others. The decision can be tough to navigate without consulting a professional audiologist for help. At I Love Hearing, our audiologists and hearing professionals have decades of experience offering hearing protection solutions to people of all ages and lifestyles.

We operate four locations in Manhattan, Nassau County on Long Island, and the New York metro so that you can get to us from wherever you are. Once you arrive, we’ll consult you about your noise exposure, test your hearing, offer you hearing protection solutions, and even discuss hearing aids to counter hearing loss or tinnitus. Contact us to book an appointment and discuss your options for long-term hearing preservation with our specialists.