We’re all exposed to loud noises on a daily basis and that exposure can lead to permanent hearing loss. The noise may come from our work environment or recreational activities. The widespread use of personal music devices has led to an increase in hearing damage among all people, including teenagers. Noise-related hearing loss is usually permanent. What can you do? Here are some tips to protect your hearing.

1. Know how loud is too loud

A normal conversation is generally in the 50-decibel (dB) range. Decibels measure sound. Anything over 85 dB is considered dangerous to your hearing. A jet landing is about 120 dB, so is a rock concert. An mp3 player can be as loud as 112 dB. Even short-term exposure to sound at these levels can permanently damage hearing.

2. Use ear protection

When you know you will be exposed to noise, wear earplugs or earmuffs. Disposable earplugs are available at your local pharmacy for a very reasonable cost. These earplugs are usually made of foam and can be worn once or twice. They fit securely in the ear canal and depending upon their noise reduction rating, can decrease the dB of sound to a safer level.

Custom earplugs work for people who need daily ear protection. They’re molded to the shape of your ear and depending upon the type, can provide medium or high levels of hearing protection. Custom earplugs may last up to five years.

Earmuffs generally are used in loud sound situations, such as working with power tools, construction, lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc. They’re heavy-duty and can last for years. Another benefit of earmuffs is that you can use earplugs with them, if needed, to provide increased noise reduction.

3. Monitor your sound exposure

If you enjoy listening to music, try to keep it at levels that are comfortable without “blowing the roof” off. Audiologists recommend keeping the volume level at 60 and listening for about 60 minutes. Wear foam earplugs to concerts. Keep the volume down in enclosed places, like your car. Keep an eye on the clock to limit exposure to loud noises to a minimum.

4. Get a hearing test

If you haven’t had a hearing test in at least 10 years or if you’re over 55, it’s a good idea to see an audiologist for a hearing test. These tests are painless and can help determine if you’ve already suffered hearing damage. They also provide a baseline for the audiologist to use as you age and your hearing changes.

When it comes to our hearing, each and every exposure to noise can lead to hearing damage. These tips to protect your hearing hopefully provide some guidelines for daily life. Whether in recreational or work environments, it’s best to remain aware of how loud sound may be and how long you are exposed to that sound.