Federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulate noise levels on the job, but no such regulations apply at home, so it’s important to be aware of noise exposure. Using a loud vacuum for a brief time probably won’t be a problem, but using one every day for prolonged periods of time is a different story, Dr. Samy says.
Dr. Samy, with more than 20 years of experience in the field, advises using hearing protection when noise levels are above 70 dB. He’s also a proponent of annual hearing tests. “That 14-year-old who got a hearing test in school probably won’t get another hearing test until he’s 70,” he says. “More regular testing can help us intervene sooner. Prevention is better than the cure.”
Another reason to protect your hearing is the link between hearing loss and dementia. Research has shown those with hearing loss have a higher risk for developing dementia. A Johns Hopkins study showed those with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia.
NIH reports 15% of Americans 18 and older – about 37.5 million people – report some type of hearing loss. Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults age 20-69, according to NIH.
“Hearing loss is an important issue with far-reaching effects on a person’s quality of life,” Dr. Samy says. “With increased education about protection and more frequent testing, we can make a difference.”