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What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss? - Hearing, Balance and Speech Center

April 29th, 2020 marked the 25th Anniversary of International Noise Awareness Day. International Noise Awareness Day (INAD) aims to raise awareness of the effects of noise on the health and welfare of individuals and populations worldwide.

Exposure to loud sound can cause permanent damage to your hearing. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), is the result of damage to your inner ear. Second to presbycusis (age related hearing loss), it is the second most common form of sensorineural hearing loss.

In celebration of International Noise Awareness Day, we're taking a closer look at NIHL.

What Causes Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Noise induced hearing loss can happen immediately, or it can develop over time. NIHL can cause permanent hearing loss. In some cases the loss of hearing is temporary. However, one thing is for sure, and that is noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. Instead, it is growing at an exponential rate, affecting millions of people.

Part of the problem with NIHL is that it doesn’t always occur as an immediate consequence of exposure to loud noise. In fact, it can develop gradually over time.

Another contributing factor to NIHL is the levels of noise in our everyday environment. Everything from television to music, household appliances, power tools, even traffic can be damaging to our ears over time. Loud noises permeate our lives, both at work and at play.

How Common is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reported in 2017 that an estimated one in four (24%) of U.S. adults aged 20 to 69 show signs of noise-induced hearing loss.

Those numbers came from people who had a hearing test as part of a study. The Hearing Health Foundation estimates that 26 million people in U.S. between ages 20-69 have hearing loss.

How Loud is Too Loud?

Knowing how loud is too loud is half the battle. Understanding when your hearing is potentially at risk is the first step. This way, you know to use the appropriate hearing protection when in noisy environments. As a general rule, anything over 85 decibels is too loud if you are exposed to it over a long period of time. Much louder sounds can cause damage in an instant. Here are some examples of sound ranges in decibels:

  • The humming of a refrigerator: 45 decibels
  • Normal conversation: 60 decibels
  • Noise from heavy city traffic: 85 decibels
  • Motorcycles: 90 decibels
  • An MP3 player at maximum volume: 105 decibels
  • Sirens: 120 decibels
  • Firecrackers and firearms: 150 decibels

Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Avoiding loud noises is not always a possibility, however there are precautions you can take to prevent hearing loss. Wearing hearing protection when you are exposed to loud noises is the next best thing. Headphones and earplugs can help prevent loud noises from damaging your ears. Many different types of hearing protection are now available.

We’re Here to Help You!

Using the appropriate hearing protection is the best way to prevent NIHL. If you’d like some advice on choosing the right hearing protection, our team would be happy to help. Contact the Hearing Balance & Speech Center if you would like to discuss further.

Research / Sources

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/noise.html
  2. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss
  3. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/news/2017/us-adults-aged-20-69-years-show-signs-noise-induced-hearing-loss