Even if you don’t crank your music to max volume and you’re not subjected to wailing sirens outside your window, your hearing could still be at risk—especially if you’re an avid traveler. Some ear doctors say that sitting on an airplane is just as damaging as being at a concert.
Just because you fly doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to lose your hearing, says Janet Cyr, Ph.D., an expert at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Rockland, Maryland. Genetics and lifestyle factors, including how often and long you’re around loud noises, can make you more or less vulnerable.
You’re typically exposed to 120 decibels of noise at a concert and up to 88 in an airplane. (By comparison, a whisper produces just 20 decibels.) But most flights last longer than concerts do, and regularly being around sounds above 85 decibels for several hours at a time can cause noise-induced hearing loss.
Hearing loss happens over several years, so protecting yourself now is the only way to prevent future damage. Wear earplugs when you fly (check the noise reduction rating before you choose a pair) and make sure they fit snugly in your ears. Or give your noise-canceling headphones a new purpose. Wearing them without playing music is another way to block out sound.
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