Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Protecting Your Hearing
Hearing loss was formerly assumed to be a normal part of aging, but we now realize there are measures one can take to prevent it. Because noise-induced hearing loss is a preventable form of acquired hearing loss, using physical ear protection can help preserve hearing. Historically, some of the most advanced forms of hearing protection were used by construction workers and individuals exposed to high levels of occupational noise. Studies have found that school-based communication sessions and video education about hearing protection can increase the use of hearing-preserving devices among workers; individually-tailored interventions appear to be more effective than general interventions (El Dib 2009). People working in other occupations that may expose them to harmful noise levels (e.g., employees at nightclubs) may also benefit from wearing hearing protection devices. However, studies have found that only a minority of these workers actually use adequate hearing protection (Gunderson 1997).
There are two main types of hearing protection: passive devices (e.g., earmuffs and earplugs) that mechanically block sound, and active devices that electronically cancel sound waves at the ear (Lusk 1997). From a practical standpoint, earplugs may be a better fit for reducing noise exposure throughout the day, both in terms of cost and ease of use (Bessette 2011; Schulz 2011).