LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Singer Mark McGrath from the group, Sugar Ray, recently announced that he is losing his hearing at age 51. He says after years of loud music with no ear protection, it is hard for him to hear normal conversation.
Dr. Leigh Ann Reel, Au.D., Ph.D., is a Professor of Audiology at the Texas Tech School of Health Professionals. She says noise induced hearing loss can show up at any age because it only takes one time for a loud noise to trigger permanent hearing loss. She says, "Guns are a huge source of dangerous loud noise. Even a single gunshot can be loud enough to cause permanent damage. And the list goes on - farm equipment, power tools even your lawn mower and maybe your weed eater too.” She adds that most people don’t understand how little it takes for a sound to be damaging. She explains, “There is a misconception. They think that if the sound is not physically painful or uncomfortable, it’s not loud enough to hurt their hearing. That’s not true.”
Dr. Reel says hearing damage builds over time until the loss is noticeable. She says in the work environment, you can get an audiologist to come to your business and measure the sound to see if it reaches 85 decibels. That’s the level of concern that a noise is potentially damaging. But for most people, there is an easier way to determine that sound level. She says, “There is an app you can use to measure sound to know if it is in the range that could be harmful to hearing.”
Another myth, she says, is that cotton will protect your ears from too much noise.
She says cotton is simply not strong enough to offer any seal from sound. But, Dr. Reel says the stores are loaded with hearing protection options. So which one would she advise? She says read the label to learn what kind of protection they offer. But overall, she says, “What’s best for you is the one that you’re willing to wear.”
Sadly, she says hearing damage is permanent. There is no way to reverse what is lost.
She says, “You have tiny little sensitive hair cells in your inner ear. They are damaged by noise and they don’t grow back. You only have the number that you were born with and so far, we can’t regenerate them.”
Watch the full interview above with Dr. Leigh Ann Reel to learn where you can get your hearing screened, what you can do to protect the hearing you still have and how you can use your smart phone to measure the sound around you.