National Protect Your Hearing Month runs for the rest of October, and Georgetown audiologist Melanie McQueen hopes that local residents will direct their attention to hearing health.
“The reason we want to bring awareness to noise-induced hearing loss is that not only is it non-reversible, it’s also avoidable,” she said.
Dr. McQueen said 31 million people nationwide are affected by hearing loss related to noise, which she defined as happening after prolonged exposure to loud sounds. This can stem from noise from machines, lawnmowers, shooting guns, or listening to loud music through earbuds.
Luckily, she said, there are ways to protect your hearing. “For earbuds, we use the 60/60 rule: don’t listen at higher than 60 percent of the volume capacity for longer than 60 minutes.”
For other situations in which someone might be exposed to prolonged loud noises, she suggested using foam earplugs that can be purchased from most grocery stores. In cases where one’s work exposes them to continued loud sounds, custom-fitted hearing protection can be purchased through centers like the Livingston Hearing Aid Center in Georgetown.
Another reason to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is that it can affect anyone, regardless of age.
“Hearing loss can happen at any time during your life,” she said. “We’re certainly seeing a lot more young teens and children coming in with hearing loss that was preventable.”
Some signs that hearing loss may already have occurred are if you are finding yourself asking for repetitions, are having trouble following conversations, or are experiencing a ringing or buzzing in your ears.
In the spirit of protecting your hearing this month, Dr. McQueen encourages residents to get their hearing checked to monitor if any loss is already happening, and consult with audiologists about future protection.
“We need to be proactive about our hearing before it’s too late,” she said.
-By Kate Thurmond from Williamson County Sun