Closeup shot of a guitar held by a person

To Protect or Not to Protect Hearing

A matter of choice?

Worldwide, the two leading causes for hearing loss are Aging and Excessively Loud Sound, in that order. 

While noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, people cannot help the fact that they are aging. Yet, by using hearing loss prevention strategies that apply to everybody – no matter what the age – they can protect themselves from getting worse. Simply stated: Stay away from excessively loud sound and carry appropriate ear protection at all times!

But are people really willing to become hearing-safe at any age? Are they prepared to spare their ears today so that they can still hear tomorrow? And so, hearing protection becomes pretty much a matter of personal choice. 

Ways of not having hearing go bad before its time include:

1) Awareness 

Some places are known to be loud and hearing protection is needed like at concerts, movies and sports events. But then there are those places where one might not expect to be assaulted by ear-numbing sound levels, such as during worship services or gym or even yoga classes. Although one might go there for reflection and improved health, be prepared for well-intended functions to be turned into ear-toxic sound bombs.  

2) Get away from the noise. 

If at first it feels too loud, it probably is. If one has to scream in order to hear or be heard, it is way to loud and ear protection should be used. Or – if it is a choice ─ leave!  Also, never stand directly in front of a noise source, such as amplifiers or deafening pieces of machinery. Gaining distance reduces harmful sound pressure. 

3) Turn it down 

How loud is the home stereo? The walls do not have to shake in order to enjoy a movie. Turn down the MP3 player. Become familiar with the 60/60 rule. Do not crank the MP3 player past 60% on the volume dial and do not listen for more than 60 minutes. Then the ears, mind and body need a rest. 

Remind others to turn it down, like the audio fanatics at fundraisers, exercise classes, Holiday parties or even family events. 

4) Learn about hearing protection and use it correctly

The most portable kind of hearing protection are ear plugs. I never leave home without mine. Yet, no matter what the type or brand, earplugs will NOT provide the amount of protection described on the package if they are not applied according to manufacturer instructions. So, take the time to read the instructions and practice inserting the plugs correctly. 

Going to concerts a lot? Consider “musician” or “high fidelity” earplugs. 

Also, ear canals are not all the same. If earplugs keep falling out of the ears, they are either not applied correctly or they may be too large. A “slender” or “slim” plug might be a better choice. It is for me.   

5) Get a soundmeter smartphone app

These can tell in an instant how loud a venue might be. Make sure that the app is supported by the phone platform or the readings will be off. An iPhone needs an i-compatible app, a droid a droid-compatible app etc,  

6) Talk to a hearing specialist

Especially those who already have hearing loss and who are under the care of a hearing specialist must ask about the best ways and products to protect the hearing that is left. Unfortunately, such extremely important discussions are all too often not had. 

And so, when it comes to saving hearing, a lot is left up to us, the people. There are many benefits to learning about the risks of excess sound to ears and hearing and to quality of life. In the end, it is a small sacrifice to forgo sound overload today so that we can still hear tomorrow. Yet ultimately, to protect or not to protect hearing becomes a matter of personal choice. 


For Hearing Safety presentations or Hearing and Health presentations, please see my website

To learn about Ears and Hearing, see my book “What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss” – now in its second edition.