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Keep Your Hearing: Know How Loud is Too Loud

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022   

Distraction has been a coping mechanism during the pandemic, but one method can have a lasting impact on health. Listening to music via headphones or earbuds to reduce stress, for work or school became more common as COVID raged, but setting the volume too high can result in noise-induced hearing loss.

Dr. Audrey Taylor, an audiologist for UT Physicians in Houston, said it is important for people to know the 80/90 rule.

"It's not just how loud sound is, it's also how long you're listening to it," Taylor explained. "A good rule of thumb is something called the 80-90 rule, meaning we don't want to turn volume up past 80% for more than 90 minutes."

Many Americans are resuming exercise at a health club after a long absence, and when background noise goes up, such as at the gym, headphone volume does too, which can contribute to noise-induced hearing loss. If you listen to music while working out, Taylor recommended investing in noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones.

Claire Johnson, manager of clinical services for UnitedHealthcare and an audiologist, said hearing loss is the third most chronic condition, with 48 million Americans experiencing hearing loss, which typically can only be corrected by wearing hearing aids. While it is most common among people 50 and older, Johnson noted it is increasing among young people and can be traced to music-listening devices.

"A recent study found that 19% of people of the age 19 to 29 are already experiencing some degree of loss," Johnson reported. "Part of this is due to the rise of these different music players that we're listening to day in and day out."

When selecting your spot for a fitness class, Johnson recommended keeping away from the room's speakers. She also suggests eating post-workout foods rich in potassium, zinc and magnesium, such as bananas, yogurt, nuts and seeds, eggs and avocados, because they have been shown to help maintain hearing health and contribute to overall well-being.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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