Newswise — It's a noisy world. And exposure to loud noises is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. An estimated one-third of Americans older than age 60 have some degree of hearing loss.
How loud is too loud? Prolonged exposure to noise above 85 decibels can hurt your hearing. The noise from power lawn mowers, tractors and hand drills are in the 90- to 98-decibel range.
If you are regularly exposed, for a minute or longer, to bulldozers, chain saws, ambulance sirens or jet engine takeoffs, you're also at risk. They produce sounds in the 105- to 140-decibel range.
Not just power tools and machinery increase the risk of hearing loss. Be cautious with iPods and MP3 players. Today's portable music players can produce sounds as loud as 130 decibels.
The September issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers tips to protect your hearing:
Wear hearing protection -- The best hearing protection device is one that you can wear correctly. Whether you choose earplugs or earmuffs, look for something that offers an airtight seal. Wear hearing protection around loud sounds, even when doing everyday tasks such as mowing the lawn.
Be aware of noise -- Whenever you can, turn down the volume on radios, TVs or speakers. Because of noise, if you can't hear or be heard by someone within 3 feet, the noise is too loud.
Be cautious with headphones -- If you're using headphones and the person next to you can hear what you're listening to, the noise is too loud.
Give your ears a rest -- Alternate noisy and quieter activities. In addition to the intensity, how long you're exposed to a noise can affect hearing loss. In fact, noise that ranks lower on the decibel scale, but continues for a longer period of time, may actually be more harmful than a high-intensity noise that's intermittent.