How to Keep Your Ears Safe: Tips for National Protect Your Hearing Month

In honor of National Protect Your Hearing Month this October, we aim to spotlight the importance of hearing health. Created by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in 2008 and supported by the Centers for Disease Control, this annual event serves as a crucial reminder to assess your own hearing. Early identification of hearing loss plays a pivotal role in effective intervention. Many individuals unknowingly have a hearing impairment, missing out on certain sounds and words. This month provides the perfect opportunity not only to become more aware of noise-induced hearing loss but also to take the first step in how to protect your hearing by getting your hearing checked.


Why National Protect Your Hearing Month Matters


Understanding the significance of National Protect Your Hearing Month is vital, given the far-reaching implications of hearing loss. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 29 million Americans could improve their lives with hearing aids. While often associated with aging, a growing number of younger people also report hearing issues.


Hearing loss doesn’t just affect auditory perception; it can have broader health consequences. A study by the Lancet Commission identified hearing impairment as a mid-life risk factor for dementia. Another study by Johns Hopkins University found a three-fold increase in fall risk when hearing loss remains untreated.


This annual October event strives to combat hearing loss, which ranks as the third most common chronic physical condition in the U.S. and a prevalent work-related illness. The focus lies on noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), an irreversible condition caused by damage to ear fibers. During this month, you’re encouraged to consider your hearing health, educate yourself on NIHL prevention, and protect yourself and your loved ones.


If you suspect a hearing problem, don’t hesitate to get checked at American Hearing + Audiology. Maintaining a safe volume environment is a proactive step; you should be able to hear someone standing a few feet away. National Protect Your Hearing Month is crucial to elevate awareness and encourage preventative action.

Explore more about different hearing loss types.

A woman places headphones on her son’s head in a message from the NIH.

Daily Habits to Protect Your Hearing Every Month


Preserving your hearing health should be a daily habit. Many of us overlook the potential dangers lurking in our routine activities, not just in obvious settings like concerts or sporting events. Here’s how you can protect your hearing every day:


At Home:

  • Adjust Volume Levels: Keep the TV, radio, and music at moderate levels. A handy rule is to set the volume no higher than 60% of the maximum.
  • Listening Breaks: If you indulge in loud music or podcasts, take periodic breaks to reduce continuous exposure to loud noises.
  • Choose Quieter Products: Opt for quieter power tools or recreational vehicles. The CDC’s Buy Quiet webpage offers insights into noise-friendly alternatives.
  • Ear Protection: Use hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to loud activities, such as using power tools or lawn maintenance.
  • Protect Young Ears: Keep children away from loud music and equipment at home. Noise exposure is cumulative and can affect people of all ages.


On the Go:

  • Be Mindful of Headphone Use: Avoid using headphones for extended periods. When you do use them, choose sound-isolating or noise-canceling models to listen at safer levels.
  • Commuting Safely: Practice safe listening while commuting. Keep the volume moderate, and if you cannot hear external sounds, it’s too loud.


At Public Events:

  • Time-Outs from Noise: If attending a loud event without hearing protection, take intermittent breaks away from the sound source.
  • Observe Warning Signs: Consider any signs or announcements recommending hearing protection.
  • Portable Protection: Keep earplugs or earmuffs in easily accessible places like your car, purse, or backpack so they’re readily available for you and your family.
  • Spread Awareness: Encourage those around you—friends, family, coworkers—to also take hearing protection seriously.


Outdoor and Recreational Activities:

  • Sound Safety Gear: Always wear hearing protection during noisy outdoor activities like motorcycling, shooting, or snowmobiling.
  • Be Cautious in Fitness Classes: Loud music in gyms can be harmful. If you attend such classes, position yourself away from the speakers and consider using ear protection.


By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, you can substantially minimize the risk of noise-induced hearing loss and enjoy a fuller auditory experience throughout your life.

A soundboard has “86 dB” superimposed over it.

How to Recognize Dangerous Noise Levels: A Guide


Understanding how to gauge noise levels is crucial for safeguarding your hearing health. Decibels (dB) serve as the unit of measure for sound intensity, with A-weighted noise levels (dBA) specifically used to assess hearing risk. But how do you identify dangerous noise? Here’s a guide to help you navigate.


How to Protect Your Hearing by Understanding Decibels:

  • Whisper: Around 30 dB
  • Normal Conversation: Approximately 60-70 dB
  • Motorcycle Engine: Roughly 95 dB
  • Sirens: 110 to 129 dB
  • Fireworks: 140 to 160 dB


The threshold for dangerous noise starts at 85 dBA. Sustained exposure to sounds above 70 dB can lead to gradual hearing damage, while immediate harm occurs at levels above 120 dB. Sound intensity, measured in dB, is different from perceived loudness. The dB scale is logarithmic; thus, a 100 dB noise is one billion times more powerful than a 10 dB noise, not simply “10 times louder.”


Signs of Excessive Noise


If you have to raise your voice at arm’s length, you’re likely in an environment exceeding 85 dBA. This level of sound can lead to hearing damage over time. The risk of hearing loss increases with sound intensity rather than perceived loudness. Several smartphone apps can help estimate the dB levels you’re exposed to. One example is the Sound Level Meter app by the CDC’s NIOSH.


Activities with Hazardous Noise Levels


  • Fireworks displays
  • Lawn mowing or using gas-powered edgers
  • Operating power tools
  • Attending concerts or sporting events
  • Jet skiing or motorboating
  • Revving car or motorcycle engines


Time and Noise Exposure

Listening to sounds at 85 dBA for up to 8 hours is generally considered safe. However, this safe duration halves with every 3-dB increase over 85 dBA. For example, at 88 dBA, you should limit exposure to 4 hours.


By being aware of sound intensity and recognizing dangerous noise levels, you can take proactive steps to protect your hearing.

Get your hearing health questions answered

A man places headphones over his ears while wearing work gloves.

How to Protect Your Hearing: Must-Have Hearing Protection Gear


Avoiding loud noises is the best way to protect your hearing. But when you can’t escape the noise, wearing hearing protectors like earplugs or earmuffs is crucial. Keep them handy for sudden loud noises, and make a habit of using them in noisy environments.


Hearing Protectors

There are  various types of hearing protectors:


  • Earplugs: Foam, pre-molded, and custom-fit options are available. Musician earplugs provide hearing protection while preserving sound quality.
  • Earmuffs: Padded cups connected by an adjustable headband.
  • Canal Caps: Earplugs on a stiff band, wearable around the neck.
  • Double Protection: For extremely loud environments, consider wearing earmuffs over earplugs.


Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)


The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a crucial metric for evaluating the effectiveness of hearing protection devices. As determined by laboratory tests, a higher NRR indicates more efficient noise reduction. However, the NRR may only partially reflect real-world performance, as it doesn’t account for variables like fit and the type of noise encountered. When choosing a device, aim for one with an NRR appropriate for your specific environment. Make sure it fits snugly yet comfortably, and inspect it regularly for any signs of damage.


Additional considerations include the general efficacy of devices with an NRR of 25 dB or higher. Not all protectors fully block sound; some may compromise your ability to hear crucial ambient noises like warning signals. Select a device that allows for conversation for those working in noisy settings where communication is vital. If you have any uncertainties about which hearing protector to choose, seek advice from a hearing health professional.

Remember, the right hearing protector can save your hearing, so choose wisely.


Make Every Month a Protect Your Hearing Month

National Protect Your Hearing Month is a vital reminder to prioritize your auditory health. Whether you’re in a noisy work environment or attending loud events, the proper hearing protection can make all the difference. Don’t underestimate the value of a good hearing protector; consult professionals for personalized advice. Schedule a free hearing screening at American Hearing and Audiology to ensure your ears are in optimal condition. Don’t wait; your hearing is too valuable to risk.