Hearing health is extremely important because it impacts both social and emotional aspects of life. One of the easiest ways to help prevent potential hearing loss is by understanding what noise-induced hearing loss really means. This blog will explain causes, effects, prevention and treatment of noise-induced hearing loss because it is important to have the knowledge to make responsible choices regarding your hearing health.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is damage to the inner ear which predominantly affects higher frequencies known to provide clarity of speech. Noise level is described in terms of its intensity (loudness or decibels). NIHL can happen gradually over time, such as in an occupational setting, or it can happen instantly with loud sounds such as power tools or firearms. Change in hearing due to noise can be temporary or permanent, and it can affect one or both ears. People of all ages are susceptible, however, it’s easily preventable.
Here are some quick facts about NIHL:
-It is the second most common form of hearing impairment, after age-related hearing loss (presbycusis).
-NIHL is the most common occupational and environmental hazard.
-Approximately 30 million Americans are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels in their workplaces1.
-By preventing noise-induced hearing loss, you can reduce the impact of age-related changes to your hearing.
The workplace is generally the biggest culprit with NIHL, along with recreational activities (firefighters and sirens or hunters and firearms!). Scientifically speaking: shearing forces caused by any sound have an impact on the stereocilia of the hair cells of the basilar membrane of the cochlea. When excessive, these forces can cause cell death. Or we could say: Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The noise damages these hair cells that help us interpret sound. These hairs do not grow back, which can result in permanent hearing loss.
You may not be the first to know you have hearing loss. Oftentimes, loved ones or coworkers are the first to notice a hearing impairment. Gradual signs of impairment can include sounds becoming muffled or distorted, turning up the television and avoiding social situations. Sudden effects of NIHL include eardrum rupture, damage to bones in the middle ear and tinnitus (ringing/buzzing in the ears).
Noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented by avoiding excessive noise, using hearing protection and being aware! Some options for protecting against NIHL include earplugs, earmuffs and noise-canceling headphones. It’s also important to be aware of which noises can hurt your hearing: ATV’s, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, motorcycles, chainsaws, powerboats and personal listening devices.
If you feel you’ve experienced NIHL, please call us at 602-307-919 and come in for an evaluation. An evaluation for NIHL includes an interview, examination, diagnostics and treatment solutions. It is essential to have the right team to help match you with the treatment solution and follow-up plan to obtain the best hearing results possible. Don't forget to utilize the preventive measures discussed above!
1. ”Noise-Induced Hearing Loss,” Peter M. Rabinowitz, M.D.