April 24th is International Noise Awareness Day. It’s purpose is to encourage people to be aware and to do something about bothersome noise in the workplace, at home and at play. Noise is a daily and increasingly inescapable threat to our hearing and our health. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that up to 40 million U.S adults suffer with noise induced hearing loss. With this in mind, let’s explore what noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is and how you can prevent it.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise such as workplace machinery, commuting in busy traffic, or listening to loud music. Exposure to extremely loud sounds such as explosions or gunshots can be an immediate cause.
Loud sounds can cause damage to the ear structures and delicate hair cells, which play a vital role in transmitting sound waves to the brain. These sound waves are then interpreted, allowing us to ‘hear’ the sounds.
Hearing loss as a result of NIHL may be temporary or permanent. The most common presentation of NIHL is a gradual onset of high frequency hearing loss. As such, many do not notice the symptoms of NIHL until it is already quite severe. Often, the first symptom that sufferers may become aware of is tinnitus.
Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
The best way to protect your hearing is by being aware of sound levels around you and taking steps to limit your exposure. Sound is often measured on a decibel scale (dB).
Sounds louder than 85+ dB for a prolonged period may cause damage, and sounds louder than 120 dB+ can cause immediate damage.
During your next visit to Hearing Balance & Speech Center, ask the team about bespoke ear plugs. These are designed to fit your ears, offering both comfort and protection against NIHL. Alternatively, why not look into apps that measure the noise volume around you?
An even easier trick is to ask yourself: “Can I converse with someone 3 feet away, without shouting over background noise?”
If the answer is “no”, it’s likely that the background noise is potentially hazardous. Notice when you walk away i.e to the restroom - if your ears feel ‘full’ or you can hear any ringing in your ears, as these are also signs that the sound level is too high.
It’s not always possible to limit exposure to noise, and unfortunately some permanent damage may have already occurred.
Early detection is the best way to minimize the risks of NIHL. We recommend annual hearing assessments to increase the changes of early detection and treatment options. If it’s time to book in your next hearing assessment, call 1-800-HEAR-IT-1 or click here to request an appointment online.