Photo courtesy Pixabay.com
It’s a noisy planet. Car sound systems, loud TVs and, among the least monitored for risky adolescent behavior, portable devices, assault our delicate sense of hearing without most of us even noticing. We slowly lose the ability to hear a wide range of frequencies. It’s called “noise induced hearing loss,” and it’s pervasive.
Meanwhile, blue light is keeping us awake. Here’s what the experts say.
Not too loud, too close, or for too long
There are two causes of noise induced hearing loss — occasional extremely loud sounds, and sustained exposure to high volumes.
Damaging levels can come from unlikely places. I drove a Jeep Cherokee several years ago with a running decibel level above safe levels, and that was with the windows closed and sound system off. And obvious problem noises are even louder than we might think; my home security alarm is loud enough to cause physical pain. These levels are easily measured with a basic sound level meter.
“Sound is measured in units called decibels,” says an article by the National Institutes of Health. Simply put, keep noise levels below 70 decibels most of the time. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for hearing loss to occur. The article mentions such recreational activities as “listening to MP3 players at high volume through earbuds or headphones, playing in a band, and attending loud concerts,” and exposure to other sources such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and woodworking tools.
Some basic comparisons:
- Normal conversation
- Music through headphones at maximum volume, sporting events, and concerts 94-110 dBA
- Fireworks show
When using portable devices, says “5 Ways to Prevent Hearing Loss,” turn down volumes, wear noise-cancelling earphones or headphones, don’t just turn the volume up to cover up outside noise; limit music volume to no more than 60 percent of maximum (you may have a device setting for this), and take a break from your music for at least five minutes of every hour.
When it’s not possible to avoid loud situations — such as large, loud contemporary church services, movie theaters, lawn mowing — youth and adults can wear earplugs and youngsters should wear over-the-head ear protection.
I’ve tried numerous versions of simple earplugs and prefer the 3M uncorded disposable earplugs, individually wrapped and inexpensive enough to wear and to share with others, with the best sound protection in its class. I buy the 200-pair box from Amazon and carry a pair with me in my purse.
For children, visit Moms Love Best for a comparison of “Best Hearing Protection for Kids of 2020.”
Turn off early
Photo credit: Science News for Students, torwal/istockphoto
It took my 25-year-old science savvy, health conscious son to help improve my sleep — simply by setting the night shift filter on my phone and computer. All ages should make this one easy change, at least.
Cell phones and computers emit blue light, and that’s a problem, an article at Kidshealth.org explains. “Blue light fools the brain into thinking it’s daytime. When that happens, the body stops releasing a sleep hormone called melatonin … nature’s way of helping us wind down and prepare for bed.
“Darkness helps trigger the release of melatonin; blue light delays it.”
However, the best solution is to just turn off all devices a couple of hours before a regularly set sleep time. Not only does each person’s own circadian rhythm (internal 24-hour sleep-wake cvcle) depend on it, but teens are even more susceptible to the effects of blue light than adults, according to Kidshealth.org.
Even the night shift filter isn’t as good as taking a shower or bath and reading a book for pleasure, journalling, or meditating for 10 minutes before turning out the lights.
As an added benefit, those gentle, old-fashioned, non-social media, non-YouTube activities will also help quiet any effects of what Psychology Today calls “monkey mind,” —restlessness, anxiety, and inner criticism. Couldn’t we all benefit from that from time to time.