Preventing Hearing Loss
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Hearing Facts

  • Men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women.
  • Of adults ages 65 and older in the United States, 12.3 percent of men and nearly 14 percent of women are affected by tinnitus (noises in the ears, like hissing, buzzing, ringing). Tinnitus is identified more frequently in white individuals and the prevalence of tinnitus is almost twice as frequent in the South as in the Northeast.
  • Approximately 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss.
  • There is a strong relationship between age and reported hearing loss: 18 percent of American adults 45 to 64 years old, 30 percent of adults 65 to 74 years old, and 47 percent of adults 75 years old or older have a hearing impairment.
  • Two to three out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard-of-hearing. Nine out of every 10 children who are born deaf are born to parents who can hear.
  • The National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders estimates that approximately 15 percent (26 million) of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds or noise at work or in leisure activities.
  • Only one out of five people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one.

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders.

The importance of hearing protection

Hearing protection is used to reduce the intensity or loudness of sound. Hearing protection includes off-the-shelf and custom-made earplugs, do-it-yourself plugs and earmuffs.

  • Do-it-Yourself: Cotton in the ears does not provide adequate protection from noise. It cannot block the ear canal effectively.
  • Earplugs: Earplugs are placed into the ear canal so that they totally block the canal. They come in various pre-made shapes and sizes, or they can be custom made by taking an impression of the ear. Earplugs can reduce noise 15-30 decibels depending on how they are made and fit.
  • Earmuffs: Earmuffs fit over the ears and reduce the amount of sound that enters the ears. Like earplugs, earmuffs can reduce noise levels by up to 30 decibels depending on how they are made and fit.

Damage from decibels

Sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered potentially dangerous to hearing. The amount of noise and the length of time you hear it determines how dangerous it is.  For example:

  • At  110 decibels, regular exposure of more than one minute risks permanent hearing loss.
  • At 100 decibels no more than 15 minutes unprotected exposure is recommended.
  • At 90 decibels prolonged exposure to any noise above this level can cause gradual hearing loss.

Here are some common noises and their decibel levels:

  • Rock concerts, firecrackers — 140 decibels
  • Snowmobile — 120 decibels
  • Chainsaw — 110 decibels
  • Wood shop — 100 decibels
  • Lawnmower, motorcycle — 90 decibels
  • City traffic noise — 80 decibels
  • Normal conversation — 60 decibels
  • Refrigerator humming — 40 decibels
  • Whispered voice — 20 decibels
  • Protect your ears from loud noises. If you are doing an activity that will be very loud, use earplugs or ear protectors. These activities include using a lawnmower and power tools, or going to a concert that has loud music. They include riding motorcycles or snowmobiles, or shooting guns, such as rifles at a shooting range.
  • Do not put cotton balls in your ears. They do not protect your ears from loud noise. Use foam earplugs. Earplugs should fit so that your ear canal is completely blocked. If you are around very loud noises, be doubly careful.
  • Adjust your music or television volume so that it is comfortable to hear, but not too loud. Do not listen to very loud music through headphones or earphones.
  • If you must be around short, loud noises, block your ears with clean fingertips during the noise.

How to protect your hearing

For more information about DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital’s audiology and hearing services or to make an appointment, call 313-966-4725.

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  • You may need to lean forward or turn your head to be able to hear. You have a frown on your face as you try to hear.
  • You may not understand what people are saying because you are not hearing clearly.
  • You may have problems hearing people talk if there is loud background noise.
  • You may have dizziness and ringing or buzzing in your ears.
  • You may not want to be around others because you have a hard time hearing.


For more information about DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital’s audiology services or to make an appointment, call 313-966-4725.