Protecting Your Hearing in a Digital World

Most of the modern world is plugged in these days to smartphones, ipads and laptops, among other things. And many of us complete the loop by coaxing earbuds into our ears, turning up the sound to shut the world out, even just for a minute. But this practice, along with the increased amount of dangerous noise present in the modern world, is causing epidemic levels of early hearing loss in children, adults and teens. Read on to find out what you can do:

Who is it affecting?

A September 2016 study found that one in six U.S. teens has high frequency hearing loss due to chronic exposure to harmful sound levels. Fifteen percent of people ages 18 and over report some kind of hearing loss; and by age 65, one in three people has hearing loss. About 10 percent of Americans also suffer from a chronic ringing or buzzing noise in the ears, known as tinnitus.

Why is hearing loss a problem?

Hearing loss caused by exposure to dangerous noise is often irreversible, and can affect students' ability to do well in school and communicate with both friends and family. In adults, hearing loss is linked to dementia, and can exacerbate social isolation, depression, and other health issues.

What is "dangerous noise" and where is it happening?

Although each person's sensitivity varies, it's generally accepted that sounds above 85 decibels especially when listened to for an extended period of time can cause permanent damage to important cells in the cochlea (inner ear). Harmful noise levels can be created by sudden, loud sounds, like fireworks or a gunshots, or everyday sounds like traffic, construction, or loud music.

What you can do:

Several countries have taken steps to ensure that manufacturers cap device volumes at a certain level, and the U.S. isn't one of them. Although the type and brand of headphones does make a difference, it's known that playing an iPod at full blast most definitely exceeds the recommended 85 decibel level, it's more like attending a rock concert (which is often well over 100 decibels). Here's what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:

Use volume controls: Just like child safety controls on the internet, many devices will allow you to cap the maximum volume at a certain level. In fact, you can even do this to your child's iOs device and then set a numeric password so that he or she can't change it! Make sure to use the headphones and not just the display to find a reasonable cap.

Throw away the earbuds: Older-style headphones are safer because they do double duty by blocking out noise in addition to amplifying sound, so you're less inclined to turn them up all the way in the first place. Lucky for you, old-school headphones (with the big band, that look like earmuffs) are back in style, so you don't have to feel silly when you make the switch.

Pay attention to how you're using volume: Be wary of using headphones in especially noisy environments, and never increase the volume just to block out sound.

Protect your ears in other potentially harmful situations: Carry disposable earbuds for use in cities, at concerts, or on especially noisy worksites--and make a habit of wearing them.

Follow these tips and encourage your loved ones to follow them too; and prevent early hearing loss for you and your family.

For any health insurance questions, call or contact Wilson, Timmons & Wallerstein Insurance, Inc. today.

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