What is the last time you noticed your ears ringing after an event? This common way to understand hearing damage might be a temporary experience that goes away by the morning. However, sometimes that persistent sound can be a sign of permanent damage. You might notice this ringing after walking out of a loud concert or sporting event into the relative quiet of the parking lot or city street at night. You might not notice the ringing until you return home and are ready to fall asleep in the quiet of your bedroom. If you have noticed this kind of ringing in your ears after an event, that should be a signal that you need to be wearing hearing protection. Some events are obviously very loud, such as a concert that pushes the limits of safe decibel levels. However, many leisure activities can cause damage to your hearing without you even knowing it. Let’s take a look at the many ways that your hearing can be damaged in everyday settings, recreational events, and through leisure activities like listening to music. Each of these should prompt you to limit your exposure to loud sound and to wear protection when necessary.

Hearing Protection at Home

A few household activities can subject you to loud enough sound that hearing protection is necessary. Lawn care is one of the most common activities in everyday life that can cause damage. If you have a riding lawnmower, weed whacker, or leaf or snow blower, you would do well to wear earplugs while using these tools. One of the riskiest things you can do is to wear earbuds while engaging in lawn care. Not only are your ears inundated with the noise from your tools, but you are adding to that exposure through the music or other audio you are playing through your earbuds. Noise-canceling headphones can be helpful, but they are seldom effective at eliminating all the noise from your machines.

Hearing Protection in Recreation

Many recreational activities produce loud enough sound to damage your hearing. In addition to concerts and sporting events, shooting ranges and hunting are common ways to damage your hearing. These activities require more advanced hearing protection than the disposable foam earplugs that you buy over the counter. Noise-canceling earmuffs will be necessary, and many people wear earplugs within their earmuffs for an added layer of protection. Those who take part in very loud activities such as flying might want to wear a noise protection helmet with a built-in intercom. Even motorcycle riding at highway speeds can benefit from hearing protection and assistive communication devices built into helmets.

Hearing Protection and Headphones

Headphones are remarkable inventions to assist your listening process, creating a personal stereo experience that is unparalleled in-room sound. However, that same personalization comes with potential risks. Many devices, when played at maximum volume, can produce damaging sound that is transmitted through headphones or earbuds.

When you wear these devices, you are placing a speaker as close to the ear canal as possible, and others very likely do not know just how loud your music or other audio can be. A good rule of thumb is to keep the maximum volume of your smartphone or other portable devices at 75 percent of the maximum volume. If you go above that level, you can only withstand a few minutes of exposure before your hearing can be damaged. One of the greatest risks with these devices is using earbuds to cover up the background noise. Though it might seem preferable to listen to a podcast, audiobook, music, or to watch videos on your commute home, you are essentially adding additional noise to the already-loud volume of your mode of transportation. Try to limit your use to just a minute or two, whenever possible. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs through a combination of volume and duration, so listening to headphones or earbuds at a loud volume for a long time is one of the greatest risks to your hearing.

Finally, try to spread the word about hearing protection to your families and loved ones. Young people might not realize that they are putting their hearing at risk through their devices, so you can help celebrate Protect Your Hearing Month this October by sharing with others!