Decibels (dB) is used to measure sound level. On the audiogram (above), you can see that 0dB is the quietest sound a person hears, 60dB is the average level for normal conversation and a gunshot at close range can reach 140dB. According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), sound levels less than 80dB is considered safe to listen to (see graph below) – however, any sounds above 85dB can hurt your ears and even damage sensitive hair cells in the cochlea. It cannot be said enough that exposure to loud sounds can result in hearing loss, tinnitus and hyperacusis – more poignant is the fact that these issues can be prevented in approximately 30% of the population.
According to a recent survey, there are more than 30 million adults in the United States with hearing loss. As discussed above, there are many causes for hearing loss. Some people have age-related hearing loss (also known as presbycusis). Many of these people (usually after age 60) are not aware they have hearing loss, nor its severity, because their hearing decreases so slowly over time. People with presbycusis are usually made aware of their hearing loss because family members, friends and/or co-workers bring it to their attention. They typically have more difficulty hearing high-pitched tones (children/women voices, and speech sounds like f, s, th, sh) as opposed to low-pitched tones (men’s voices). Other causes may include: otosclerosis, Meniere’s disease, trauma to any part of the ear, acoustic neuroma, drugs (anticancer chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, antimalaria drugs).
**Please note** Individuals taking any of the three erectile dysfunction drugs – Cialis, Viagra, Levitra – may be at high risk for sudden hearing loss. A blood pressure medication called Revatio may also cause sudden hearing loss because it contains the same active ingredient as the other drugs mentioned. Please consult your physician immediately.
Each person is unique and so are their hearing healthcare needs. Communication skills are central for all individuals maintaining a productive life. Hearing loss can negatively impact one’s overall well-being on a personal, social and professional level if not addressed. Although in many cases, hearing loss cannot be corrected with medications or surgery, hearing aids can significantly improve your hearing and quality of life. Other viable options available are assistive listening devices (ALD) and cochlear implants.
Consult your physician and/or audiologist regarding any ear/hearing problems you are experiencing so that the best hearing healthcare plan can be tailored and implemented to resolve your issue(s).