Summer is the season for hearing loss

Between blaring music, fireworks, lawnmowers, and bouncing from one outdoor festival to the next, the summer can take a toll on your hearing.

And it can take just 30 minutes to do some serious damage, warns a hearing expert.

“There are some people who go to one loud concert and are close to the speakers and they then incur some permanent damage,” said Chantal Kealey, director of audiology and supportive personnel at the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, who warns that youth are at particular risk.

“We are, unfortunately, seeing more and more teenagers and (kids who are) even barely teenagers, showing some signs of hearing loss,” she said.

“They kind of think they’re invincible at that age and they’re not noticing it so much … but, of course, it’s because of the MP3, iPods, and so forth.”

Don’t blame it on the earbuds — earphones can be just as bad.

The main factors are the level of the music and how long you’re listening to it, said Kealey, adding repeated exposure has lasting results.

“Hearing loss due to noise exposure is very insidious, so it will come on gradually and sometimes you may not really notice it until you get to a point where you’re noticing you’re asking people to repeat themselves,” she said.

On average, talking to someone would clock about 60 to 65 decibels, while 80 dB would be the sound of a typical vacuum cleaner.

A lawnmower, blender, or big truck driving by might be around 90 dB.

And that’s when things get risky.

“Eighty-five decibels for eight hours a day without protection will start to cause permanent hearing loss. Now, when you’re at about 90 dB, after about two hours, you could even start getting hearing loss,” said Kealey.

“It’s pretty dangerous, and people don’t really realize the depth of that.”

Like musical taste, everyone’s ears are different but at the end of the day, roughly a third of hearing loss is noise induced and can be prevented.

If you’re listening to music on an MP3 player for a few hours a day, she said, the volume should be at 60% maximum.

“If there’s a song that comes on that you love, it’s okay to turn it up, but after that one song, turn it back down,” said Kealey.

Hearing tests can be performed by an audiologist but you’ll need a referral from your family doctor.

Tips to prevent hearing loss:

  • Plug it up: Use hearing protection, such as ear plugs, around loud noises, and avoid long periods of exposure.
  • Don’t tip: Cotton swabs, hairpins, etc. can scratch the ear canal and/or damage the eardrum. They can also push ear wax further into the ear canal and cause hearing difficulties.
  • Get oily: excessive ear wax can cause temporary hearing loss. Put in a few drops of an ear wax softener, such as mineral oil, and then visit an audiologist or physician to see if the wax has been removed.
  • Safety first: Always wear a seat belt in the car and use a helmet when biking, skiing, or skating. These habits can lower your risk of head and ear injury.
  • Ask questions: For more information or to find an audiologist, visit or call 1-800-259-8519.

— Source: Dr. Roula Baali, Quebec director of the Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists

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