Audiologist: Protect your ears if it's louder than 85 decibels

A Minnesota audiologist says it's important to protect your ears if the noise around you is louder than 85 decibels. 

You probably don't even notice it, but every day, the world is screaming at you. Kim Fishman notices it every day. She is an audiologist who has helped people hear every day for 20 years. Her biggest challenge, though, is getting people to listen.

"I wish I could show them the harmfulness of hearing loss and how many people have cried in front of me about their hearing loss," Fishman said.

Fishman says hearing loss isn't just something we have to worry about later in life. She's seeing more patients at younger ages, suffering from noise-induced hearing loss.

"I went into my daughter and son's school lunchroom and we were trying to help them figure out how to lower the cafeteria and we measured it at 100 [decibels], sometimes peaking up at 105."

The number 85 is one to remember when it comes to decibel levels. Hearing protection is recommended for any noise over 85 decibels.

-A vacuum is about 85 decibels
-An average conversation is between 60 and 70 decibels
-Normal street noise or traffic is between 60 and 70.
-A hair dryer will push 90 decibels
-Live music can be 120 decibels or more
-Gunshots ring out at minimum of 110 decibels

While we're all exposed to loud sounds every day, we don't all have hearing loss. Fishman says the severity of that damage depends on things like genetics, and how long a person is exposed to the noise.

"Say you got sunburned, and you may not see that wrinkles right away but over time those wrinkles will start to show up where the sun damage happened," she said.

Not only that, once you damage your ears, you'll always have a lower tolerance for loud noises. Then, if you don't start protecting your ears, you'll be on a slippery slope of hearing loss for the rest of your life.

Audiologists say only 16 percent of people between the ages of 29 and 70 are treating their hearing loss. That means millions of us are walking around, either not knowing, or choosing not to listen.

"Too many people take their hearing for granted and they don't even realize how important their hearing is," Fishman said.

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