MEDFORD, Ore. -- About 22 million Americans per year are affected by noise loud enough to be hazardous to their health, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you have to raise your voice to speak to someone an arm's length away, the noise levels around you may be loud enough to damage your hearing.
Loud noises don't affect everyone equally. Gender, age, genetics, and health issues can influence a person's susceptibility to the effects of noise.
In addition, the CDC says there are many factors that can affect your chances of hurting your hearing:
- Noise level
- Duration of exposure
- Impulsiveness – noises that are abrupt, like hammering, gunfire, or fireworks, are more dangerous than constant noise of the same overall level.
- Intermittency – periods of relative quiet between exposures allow the ear to “rest” and reduce the risk
The ear does not experience pain the same way the rest of the body does. If your ears feel stuffy or full, you may have potentially harmed them. Ringing or roaring in your ears indicates a serious noise exposure. If continued, it could lead to permanent hearing loss or damage.
To protect yourself, invest in hearing protection devices like noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs. There are also apps you can download on your smartphone to monitor decibel levels. Any number higher than 85 can be harmful.