5 Need to Knows about Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Dale Johnson:
The Conversation Starts Here, every Saturday morning on KFOR FM 103.3 1240 AM. Checkout Complete Hearing Solutions at complete-hearing.com, and with the smell of sulfur still in the air, I welcome Dr. Sandra Miller of Complete Hearing Solutions. Good morning, Dr. Miller?

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Good morning, Dale. Happy Independence Day to you.

Dale Johnson:
Thank you. Thank you. A question for you as I refer to the website, is that you all masked up practicing proper social distancing on your website? I can tell.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Yeah, you’ll find plenty of pictures of us with our masks on and social distancing. We have a lot of fun with that in terms of just encouraging people. It’s, even though we’re masked and sometimes it’s not very fun having to be wearing that, we still try to make it as fun as we possibly can.

Dale Johnson:
And while you are at complete-hearing.com, register for the Thursday’s Zoom meetings. Let listeners in on that.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Absolutely. So we do have coffee and conversation as something we’ve had featured at Complete Hearing for quite a while and it always was on the first Thursday of every month, and it still is. We haven’t had people into the practice just because of COVID and keeping the social distancing. So we do provide this as a Zoom meeting, so it’s online. All you have to do is if you just type in complete-hearing.com, that’s going to pop up and just register with us and we’ll send you a link. We’re actually going to be doing these meetings now every Thursday just to provide education. And so when you tune in with us for our Zoom meeting, a couple of things will happen. We’re going to talk about general health topics, and then for tuning in, you’re going to get some special prizes as well.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
So we highly encourage you to go to the website and get connected with us and we’ll send you an invite.

Dale Johnson:
Had you said, Zoom meeting, about three and a half months ago, you would have had this strange look back from a person, but now it’s part of our nature.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
It really is. And we’ve even talked about, why don’t we just make this a Facebook Live event as well so not only tuning in with Zoom, but people sometimes can just get on our Facebook page and follow us. So we are working on getting that into practice as well. So we found new ways to make sure people are still getting the information they need.

Dale Johnson:
I have no doubt there were people going to bed last night and going to bed tonight with ringing in their ears from fireworks. What causes ringing in the ears?

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Yeah, absolutely. So we are celebrating Independence and the 4th of July is such a wonderful holiday that we get to celebrate. When it comes to fireworks, I thought it was important that we just talk about, we do fireworks a lot more often than we ever used to, I think definitely for celebration purposes. We just had graduations and fireworks were allowed during that time and they are allowing them a lot more than they used to. So what I want you to think about with fireworks is fireworks typically kind of at epicenter of the location of where that firewood goes off, it’s about 150 to 175 decibels loud, so louder than a jet engine when that explodes. And so what happens when we expose ourselves to fireworks, it’s the damage that’s going to happen is going to depend on how far away we are from that and then of course, how loud it is.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
And so I want you to think about just dropping a rock in maybe a pond of water and you see that kind of ripple effect, and then the ripples gets smaller and smaller the farther away you get from the impact spot. And that’s the same thing that happens with distance with sound. And so when a firework goes off, if you’re not far enough away, there’s potential to have some hearing losses. So we don’t recommend that children or adults be exposed to noise over 120 to 140 decibels. So imagine that a firework can go off that loud. So what happens of course is that we have noise exposure and then that can result in injury. So the ear does not like loud, loud, loud sound and your ear is designed to protect itself. But what happens is when we have something that gets loud, the ear is trying to protect itself and it can create a little bit of this ringing noise in the ear.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
So I think today, we’ll just talk about some of the results of having fireworks go off and then some of the things we typically see after the 4th of July weekend in our office. And then what I’d like to do is share with the listeners today. Let’s just talk about how we don’t come see Dr. Miller on Monday.

Dale Johnson:
Prevention, right?

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Prevention. That would be our goal. We definitely just would like, let’s be smart about it.

Dale Johnson:
That would be the best way to go. What goes on in the ear?

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Well, one thing that really happens when you are exposed to loud sound, you have this muscle inside your middle ear space called your tensor tympani muscle and it’s going to contract, and that’s going to make that eardrum really tight. So imagine when you’re drumming on a snare drum, if it’s really, really tight, it’s not very easily manipulated. So there’s one protective system your body has. The ear is very resilient, but over time, there’s these little sensors inside your inner ear we call hair cells and when sound gets too loud, those hair cells just get damaged and they can be damaged in a couple of different ways. When you’re exposed to excessive noise, it can be temporary. That just means those hair cells didn’t like that and they just kind of laid down for a little while and slowly they would recover. That’s typically what we see for initial kind of noise exposure, depending on how loud the sound is and where you were exposed to it.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
However, that also can make the ear ring. What happens is the brain is not getting the information it wants from the ear and now we have a little bit damage happening so the ear will start to ring. And if you were exposed to too much noise or an impact noise that was way too loud, those little hair cells that are laying down now to rest, they may have had so much damage that they don’t come back and that causes permanent hearing loss, which we do not want. We have seen extreme cases where maybe a firecracker goes off by somebody’s ear. They were holding it, didn’t get rid of it fast enough. Not only is there physical damage potentially, but they could even rupture their eardrum because that sound is so loud.

Dale Johnson:
Does that eardrum ever heal?

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
It does. The ear drum is also very resilient. So when somebody bursts their ear drum, it depends on what the cause is, but the ear drum naturally typically will go ahead and grow itself back together essentially, is which I want to think about. But if you get a big enough damage or a perforation that’s large enough, there is a potential that it wouldn’t go back and you’d have to have it grafted, for most of the cases that we see. So typically on a Monday morning after 4th of July weekend, we see three things. We see, my ears are ringing, my hearing is muffled. I had a firecracker go off really close to me and I’m having pain in my ear. We’ve seen burst ear drums. It’s just one of those things where you see a different type of case all the way around. And so I think today just talking about, what should I do today, this weekend as we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks?

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
And in general, when you get around fireworks, what should I be doing to keep myself safe? Because I would prefer not to see you in the office on Monday. Let’s make smart decisions. And I would tell you, I think my concern this year, especially is because we’re not having any of our July Jam or our Uncle Sam celebrations and so we aren’t going out to the big fireworks displays, and that makes me think that many people are going to be doing this at home. So they’re going to be more people at home not maybe giving themselves a safe distance. So I think we’ll talk about some tips today to keep you safe.

Dale Johnson:
Start at the top of your favorites list for protecting our ears.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
These are five things you can do during this time of using fireworks, will be just keep a safe distance. What I want you to think about is, we talked about that rock and lake and the farther away you are from it, you would notice less effect. When it comes to fireworks, we’d recommend you be, honestly for safe distance, probably 50, 60 feet away, if you possibly can. So imagine if you’re lighting off a firework, can you even get 50 or 60 feet away from it? So distance is one of the most important things you can do. The other thing is that when you’re at home, commercial fireworks are out there, but you’re really not supposed to be buying them. And when we use them at home, we don’t understand the dangers of them in terms of how loud they can be. And so we would say, if you can, be super conscious about what you’re buying and the impact that they can possibly have.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Of course, we want you, number three, to be putting on some earplugs or earmuffs. If you’re the one who’s going to be in charge of the display at your house, we want you to make sure that you have some earplugs in, some earmuffs on. You want to protect your hearing because if you’re going to be that person who’s closest to those fireworks, you definitely need something. And I want to kind of just jump in and talk about children with this because children’s ear canals are so much smaller. So they’re even at more risk because when that sound goes off, their ear canals are so much smaller, which means it resonates louder inside their ear. So they need hearing protection. And we do not recommend infants are around this type of noise at all. Put some earmuffs on them because their ear canals are so, so small.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
I would say, if you’re going to buy fireworks, they’re not as fun, but buy the ones that are more safe, for sure. And that’s hard to know because what am I going to buy when I don’t know what these fireworks look like? And so there are some that even say on the package, big boomer, loud noise. I tried to research, Dale, if there was any place I could find on the fireworks that are out there, what the decibel level is on a firework. Well, they’re not going to tell you that. They’re going to caution you that, don’t burn yourself. Make sure you do all these safety precautions, but I think it’s so variable depending on how close you are to the firework, or if you’re at this distance, it’s this, and at this distance, it’s this, and we don’t know because every fireworks is different. So we want to make sure we just use those precautions.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
And then I think a couple of things is just, we tend to want to use fireworks, like light in our hand and then we want to throw them. There’s just so many safety protocols that you want to take into place as well. So as we are spending more time at home and not potentially going to those commercial type displays, maybe here in Lincoln, I just want to encourage the listeners to think about those effects that this can have on their hearing.

Dale Johnson:
Circling back to the earplugs, what to look for for an adult and for a child.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Yes. What’s really great about ear plugs is the easy ones that you can use are just ear muffs. Put the earmuffs over the top of the ear, that’s a really easy, safe way to do this. The other way is you can just buy them over the counter. What you want to do when you go to buy earplugs is look for the size, they comes small, medium, and large, and then they come with a decibel rating on them or a noise reduction rating. They’ll say NRR, that stands for noise reduction rating, and you want the highest possible that you can get. And so when you buy them at the store, what will happen is they’ll have a noise reduction rating from anywhere from 15 up to 35. That rating is going to depend on how well it fits inside your ear.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
So you want to get something that’s going to be fit appropriately. And so if it’s not watered down inside your ear and sealing appropriately, it’s not going to give you maximum reduction. So the easiest way is to grab a pair, go to Walgreens, go to Target, just go someplace into kind of the pharmacy section and find some earplugs that you can use, or just some earmuffs that go right over the top of the ear. That would be the easiest thing to do. If this is one of your hobbies or you’re around noise a lot, we do make custom earplugs for a number of different things, whether it’s a dental hygienist who is around that loud drill every day, or if you’re a construction worker and you’re using a jackhammer, or if you are a shooting enthusiast and you like to go target shooting. We have custom hearing protection for everything that you can imagine.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
And the advantage to having something custom is that it’s molded to the ear and it’s giving you maximum attenuation for what you need it for, because not everybody needs the same thing, but I would tell you, not everybody’s ears are shaped like a circle. And so when you try to buy something over the counter, sometimes my patients will tell me, well, I bought this, but it didn’t fit very well. And that’s because most people’s ears are not a circle and most people’s ears are not straight. And so when you get something, you want to get something that fits nice down inside the ear.

Dale Johnson:
Always helpful information on The Conversation Starts Here. Equally, you can find information at complete-herring.com. And while you are there, you can register for the Zoom meeting with Complete Hearing Solutions. Every Thursday at noon, live conversations with Dr. Miller. Have a safe 4th of July, Dr. Miller.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
You too, Dale. Have a great weekend.

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