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The Illinois Department of Labor is reminding the pubic to protect their hearing.

Hearing loss can happen at any age, and prolonged exposure to sounds that are too loud can have a lasting effect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says roughly 40 million Americans, between the ages of 20 and 60, have noise-induced hearing loss.

The Illinois Department of Labor is stressing safety in October during National Protect Your Hearing Month.If you have to raise your voice to speak with someone three feet or less away, noise levels likely exceed 85 decibels, the threshold for hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can lead to hearing loss. That’s why OSHA requires employers to have a hearing conservation program when noise exposure is at or above 85 decibels averaged over 8 working hours. Working around jet engines, jackhammers or chainsaws are examples of obvious dangers to your hearing if exposure lasts too long.

The louder the noise, the less time necessary to be exposed to suffer hearing damage. It’s important to remember that hearing damage is permanent. While hearing aids can assist, nothing reverses hearing damage once it occurs. Noise-induced hearing damage affects a person’s ability to hear high-frequency sounds and understand speech.

To prevent this, remember to: Avoid loud noises and/or limit both proximity and time exposed to loud noise; Use hearing protection (like earplugs or hearing protection earmuffs) when near loud noises; Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about your hearing.