As the population gets older, the number of people with hearing loss grows. But researchers say we’re also bringing it on ourselves – with our noisy toys.
":Well, if they make the iPod so it can go that loud, it must not be dangerous to listen to it as loud as it will go,": says Cassie Clement, laughing, about what she used to think. She knows better than that now – she’s in a clinical audiology class at the University of Maine.
They learned listening to their earbuds at more than 60 percent volume for 60 minutes could damage their hearing. ":It’s something they don’t really inform you about when you use things like that,": she says.
Amy Engler Booth supervises the audiology clinic at the University of Maine. ":Noise induced hearing loss, even if its mild, can affect day to day conversations,": she says.
Michaela Ham, who’s also in the class, says, ":You think you’re young, so you’ll bounce right back.": But that might not be the case. Some people are naturally more sensitive than others.
":Two people can work side by side. One person walks away with a hearing loss, and the other person doesn’t,": says Booth. They say sensitivity is likely due to genetics.
But generally, a one-time exposure to a very loud noise, or even prolonged exposure to something somewhat loud, can damage your hearing.
":They don’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a hearing loss, but if you’re exposed to really loud sound levels over and over and over, you’re putting yourself at risk of having a hearing loss one day,": says Clement.
":So they’re hearing everybody, but they’re not hearing clearly. That’s the problem,": says Booth.
And that is a problem, for some Americans who developed noise-induced hearing loss before workplace safety standards were put in place.
":So for young workers with hearing protection in the workplace, you would think the population of noise induced hearing loss would disappear,": says Booth. ":Well, they’re not.":
Now, researchers say 55 million Americans have some sort of hearing loss. The use of personal stereos and an aging population are factors.
So, unless you want to meet up with these students in a hearing clinic one day…do as they’ve learned. Wear hearing protection in loud environments – and put down those earbuds every once in awhile.
":I’ve been a little more conscious,": says Ham, ":of things in my own life that are maybe a little too loud.":