Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
Does your family ask you to turn the TV down?
Or, do people tell you that you're talking too loud?
If so, you could have noise-induced hearing loss.
Helen Keller once said, "Deafness is worse than blindness."
She felt should could compensate for her lack of eyesight by learning Braille, but there was no getting around her inability to hear.
That's why some experts feel it's so important for people to protect themselves from loud noises.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent disability.
Hearing aids don't restore hearing. Hearing aids can assist poor hearing, but when hearing is gone, it's gone.
What people don't understand is that this disability is 100 percent preventable.
Experts use International Noise Awareness Day, which is Wednesday, to spread the word on hearing loss.
More than 20 million people in the United States have some type of hearing impairment.
Experts say at least half of those cases are probably due to noise exposure.
That's not all.
Exposure to noise, or unwanted sound, is far more than just a threat to our ears. Correlational studies have indicated that noise negatively affects cognitive development, social behavior and learning; and it causes physiological changes in sleep, blood pressure and digestion.
Without even reading the studies, though, we all know about the stress that is created by unwanted sound.
Think about a leaking faucet that is dripping in the middle of the night.
Noise does not have to be at hazardous levels to make us angry and tense.
That's the idea behind International Noise Awareness Day.
Follow these steps to create a quieter and healthier environment:
- Pay attention to the noises around you. Whenever possible, turn down the volume.
- Ask your neighbors to turn down the volume on noise, and if you're not satisfied, ask local officials for help.
- Give your ears a break and limit use of noisy toys and loud appliances. Be selective, and purchase toys and appliances that do not generate high levels of noise.
- Listen to MP3 players and personal stereo systems at safe levels. A rule of thumb: If you cannot hear other people talking when you are wearing headphones or if other people can hear your music while the headphones are on, it is too loud.
- Wear adequate hearing protection, such as custom-molded ear plugs, commercially available ear plugs or ear muffs, when you must be in a noisy environment or when using loud equipment.
- Avoid noisy sports events, rock concerts and night clubs. If this is not possible, limit the time spent at these activities.
- Alternate a noisy activity with a quiet one to give your ears a rest.
- Make your home acoustically sound by following these recommendations of the National Bureau of Standards:
- Place vibrations mounts under major appliances.
- Place foam pads under small appliances.
- Use window drapes.
- Install padded carpeting to absorb sound.
- Install vinyl tile or thick linoleum to absorb sound.
- Seal holes or cracks in doors and windows.
- Caulk windows.
- Replace metal garbage cans with plastic cans.
- Purchase quiet appliances.
If you are exposed to noise on a regular basis, get your hearing checked by a qualified audiologist.
It is estimated that 50 million Americans who own and use firearms for competitive and recreational shooting are considered at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
Sports such as speed boating, auto racing, snowmobiling can pose a risk for both operators and spectators.
Noise exposure from riding motorcycles, dirt bikes and motor scooters can create a hearing loss.
A rule of thumb - if you have to shout in order to be heard three feet away, then the noise is probably too loud and could be damaging to your hearing. In these instances, hearing protection is recommended.
Pay attention to the noises you make and respect your neighbor's right to peace and quiet.
Turn down the volume two notches on your portable music players with headphones.
Turn down the volume one notch on your television.
Do not honk your horn, except in the case of imminent danger.
Do not tip cab drivers who honk their horns illegally.
Avoid noisy sports events, restaurants, rock concerts and nightclubs unless you use hearing protection.
- Replace noisy activities with quiet ones such as taking a walk, visits to libraries and museums.
- Ask your health club instructor to lower the music.
- Ask the movie theater manager to turn down the volume.
- Wear adequate hearing protection if you must be in a noisy environment, such as mowing the lawn.
- Turn off the television during dinner and have a quiet conversation instead.
- Spread the word about the danger of noise.