Common Sounds That Can Cause Permanent Hearing Loss

Daily driving a motorcycle or convertible vehicle can contribute to hearing loss.

Daily driving a motorcycle or convertible vehicle can contribute to hearing loss.

Statistics show that some 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64, and one in three age 65 and older experience some degree of hearing loss. Some hearing loss is attributed to natural causes like age, earwax buildup or otosclerosis, an overgrowth of the middle ear bone. But in most cases, it can be attributed to noise exposure.

Noise is all around us every hour of every day. That’s concerning because hearing loss can occur after just a one-time noise exposure at 120 decibels, such as gunfire, or with continuous exposure to noise at levels of 85 decibels or above over a prolonged period of time.

Here are just a few common noises that can cause permanent damage to your hearing:

85-100 decibels:

  • Garbage trucks
  • Power mowers
  • Motorcycles
  • Convertible vehicles
  • Jackhammers

110-140 decibels:

  • Music concerts
  • Home stereo speakers at maximum volume
  • Jet engines
  • Firecrackers
  • Nail guns
  • Ambulance sirens
  • Chainsaws
  • Home stereo speakers at maximum volume

It’s important to know that just one minute of exposure to noises at levels of 110 decibels or higher can result in permanent hearing loss. The good news is that noise-induced hearing damage can be prevented by avoiding or limiting exposure to certain noises and by wearing ear plugs when you know you’ll be in high-noise situations.

If you already have suffered noise-induced hearing loss, you have several options to help improve or restore hearing. These include amplifying systems and hearing aids. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule a consultation at St. Augustine Ear, Nose and Throat’s St. Augustine or Ponte Vedra locations.

SAENT Warns Parents of Hearing Loss Dangers

Teens love their music - and they love it loud. Make your your kids know the risks of hearing loss associated with earbuds and high volumes.

Teens love their music – and they love it loud. Make your your kids know the risks of hearing loss associated with earbuds and high volumes.

Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re the parent of a teenager, it’s practically a given that his or her gift wish list includes a mobile phone, music player or other listening device. Before you head to the electronics aisle, St. Augustine Ear, Nose and Throat founder Dr. Kalpana DePasquale offers advice that could make a major difference in your teen’s auditory health.

“When it comes to listening, having a teenager can be similar to having a two year old,” Dr. DePasquale said, echoing the frustrations of many a parent. “However, it’s often unclear if they are just not listening or if they can’t hear you.”

In her practice, Dr. DePasquale sees a growing number of teenage, pre-teen and youth patients suffering some degree of hearing loss. She places much of the blame squarely on the increasing use of high-volume listening devices.

“Many communications devices that function as phones, music players, cameras, are now increasingly affordable and accessible to more children and teens,” she said. “Youth clothing is even designed to be fitted with electronic devices and headphones.”

While these devices certainly have a cool factor that makes them popular with young people, they also pose the risk of potentially irreversible damage. Statistics show that one in five American teens will experience hearing loss – a rate that’s 30 percent higher than in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Parents need to inform their teens about noise exposure and how it’s linked to hearing loss,” Dr. DePasquale said. “Young people must understand that noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. However, once the young person is diagnosed with hearing loss, it is irreversible. Hearing can be
amplified with a hearing aid, but there is no cure.”

If you plan to place a smartphone, music player or other listening device under the tree this Christmas, make sure your teen understands and adheres to the 60/60 rule: “There is a helpful 60/60 rule that states the maximum duration of volume that is greater than 60 percent of the maximum volume should be 60 minutes,” said Dr. DePasquale explains. “Volumes higher than 85 decibels can cause hearing damage and high-pitched sounds can cause damage more easily than lower pitched sounds.”

Some devices like the ever-popular iPod have a setting for volume limits that can be adjusted to 60 percent. Check for this feature before making a purchase. Rather than earbuds that sit precariously at the entrance of the ear canal, go retro and choose the older-style headphones that are placed over the ears instead. And, make sure that teens don’t wear earbuds or headphones while sleeping.

Red-flag indications that your child or teen already has suffered hearing loss include complaints of muffled sounds or of ringing, roaring, hissing or buzzing sounds in the ear; listening to the TV or radio at higher volumes; and difficulty understanding speech. If your child experiences any of these, it’s critical that he or she sees an Otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat physician for a hearing evaluation. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule an appointment with St. Augustine Ear, Nose and Throat.

New Study Finds Sleep Apnea May Cause Hearing Loss

Daytime drowsiness is a known sign of sleep apnea. But new research suggests the condition also could be to blame for hearing loss.

Daytime drowsiness is a known sign of sleep apnea. But new research suggests the condition also could be to blame for hearing loss.

The known effects of sleep apnea are many, including a diminished sleep quality, headaches, memory and concentration problems, mood swings, dry mouth, sore throat, inflammation, and cardiovascular and endocrine problems. But results of a new study may add another ailment to the list of sleep apnea symptoms – hearing loss.

Researchers conducting the study found that sleep apnea was associated with hearing impairment in study participants at both high and low frequencies. Results also suggest that the connection between sleep apnea and hearing loss may involve a combination of factors that cause inflammation and abnormal functioning in the blood vessels may play a role.

Upward of 18 million American have sleep apnea, according to statistics from the National Sleep Foundation. It’s primarily marked by loud snoring with periods of gasping or snorting noises, and disrupted sleep that can leave you fatigued throughout the day and make day-to-day tasks difficult or even dangerous. For instance, car crashes caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel result in a higher number of fatalities than do accident attributed to other causes.

Researchers reviewed data from nearly 14,000 US participants who completed in-home sleep studies and audiometric (hearing) testing and found that sleep apnea was associated with:

  • A 31-percent increase in high frequency hearing impairment;
  • A 90-percent increase in low frequency hearing impairment;
  • A38-percent increase in both high and low frequency hearing loss.

The researchers’ findings lend support to the premises that sleep apnea likely does not occur in isolation, but instead may be a cumulative result of multiple underlying health conditions and lifestyle choices. Risk factors can include excessive weight, advanced age, smoking, use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers and even race.

“Sleep apnea is more of a systemic and chronic disease than just something that happens when you’re sleeping,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Neomi Shah, an associate director of the pulmonary sleep lab at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

If you believe you or someone you love may have sleep apnea, understand that it is indeed a chronic condition that may require lifelong management. But with proper and consistent treatment, you (and your spouse) can finally enjoy the kind of solid, restorative sleep that’s critical to your overall health, safety and quality of life.

Another Great Reason to Kick the Smoking Habit: Protecting your Hearing

A new report suggests a strong link between smoking and hearing loss - Another great reason to add smoking cessation to your New Year's resolutions.

A new report suggests a strong link between smoking and hearing loss – Another great reason to add smoking cessation to your New Year’s resolutions.

Kicking the cigarette habit tops New Year resolutions lists for millions of Americans, and for multiple reasons. Stopping smoking improves your circulation; lowers you risk of a multitude of health ailments including lung disease or cancer, heart attack or stroke, coronary disease, throat cancer, emphysema and allergies; boosts lung function, allowing you to breathe easier; and improves the look of your skin, hair and fingernails.

But there’s another great reason to nix the habit, says Dr. Kalpana DePasqaule of St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat. Though it hasn’t been studied as deeply as links with other complications, smoking has been known by scientists and doctors for decades to have a link with hearing loss. And a recently published report AudiologyOnline from Western Michigan University backs that claim.

The hearing process and mechanisms are extremely complex. When a sound is produced, it activates a disturbance in the air in the form of sound waves. These sound waves travel into the outer ear and down the ear canal, where they vibrate the tympanic membrane, more commonly known as the ear drum. The vibrations then pass through three small bones to the fluid- and blood-filled cochlea and are picked up by tiny, hair-like cells, which transmit sound to the brain via electrical impulses along the auditory nerve.

WMU’s report suggests that the myriad of toxic chemicals drawn into the body with each inhalation of cigarette smoke can significantly affect the middle ear vibrations and the inner ear hair cells. It’s no surprise when you consider that those toxins include formaldehyde, benzene, arsenic, vinyl chloride, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and upward of 1,000 other substances. It’s believed that these adverse effects happen in three ways:

  1. Nicotine and carbon monoxide may deplete oxygen levels in the cochlea, which can cause tissue damage;
  2. Nicotine also is thought to damage neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve. These neurotransmitters essentially function as chemical messengers to the brain. If they’re damaged, they’re unable to deliver those messages;
  3. Environmental toxins introduced into the body during adolescence, when mechanisms within the hearing nerve are not yet fully developed, can cause significant damage and impair further development.

If you’re a smoker determined to kick the habit, there no doubt are services in your area to help. Did you start smoking as an adolescent, or have you smoked for a long period of time? If so, call 904-461-6060 and schedule a hearing screening today. We’ll help you determine whether you’ve suffered hearing loss and discuss ways to help improve your hearing.