Reduce Noise Exposure to Protect Your Hearing

Noise-induced hearing loss makes it difficult to understand the speech of those around you, a condition made worse by environmental noise. However, slight or borderline hearing loss doesn’t have to be disabling and can be managed through minor adjustments to your daily routine. Employ these tips at home and elsewhere to protect your hearing and prevent excessive noise exposure in the following environments:

At home

  • Even though the noise from most household appliances won’t hurt you, reduce noise wherever you can. When buying appliances, choose low-noise models of washers, dryers, and dishwashers.
  • If you are renovating, choose quieter materials, such as wood rather than tile.
  • If you can’t hear your doorbell, buy an additional doorbell chime that activates in another part of the house.
  • Keep your entertainment devices at a reasonable volume—if people need to speak up in order to be heard over the television or music, the sound is too loud.

At the office

  • Arrive early for meetings so you can choose the best seat, whether that is in the middle of the table rather than at an end, or so your back is against a wall.
  • Request the minutes after each meeting.
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings.
  • Don’t hide your mild hearing loss—most people will be glad to accommodate you.
  • Know your rights—employers are required by law to protect you from environments that regularly exceed 85 decibels.

At a restaurant

  • Request a quiet table when making reservations in case it’s crowded when you arrive.
  • Sit against a wall rather than in the center―a corner is even better.
  • Face companions directly for best sound reception.
  • Eat a little earlier or later than usual to avoid noisy crowds.
  • Consult restaurant reviews that include noise levels.

On a plane

  • To avoid ear pain or clogging, take a decongestant about an hour before takeoff.
  • Try to sit up front and far away from the engines.
  • Ask the person seated next to you to let you know if an announcement is made, and to summarize it if you missed it.
  • Don’t drown out jet engine noise with even louder music—use noise-cancelling headphones instead.

As we age individually and as a country, the conversation about hearing loss is growing. Today, nearly 40 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and that number is posed to keep increasing. If you notice it is becoming difficult to hear conversations at the other end of the table, colleagues at the opposite end of the room, or a family member at the other end of the phone, take action as soon as possible by consulting a hearing care professional using our online locator.