Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Sound is what we hear when vibrations from the source of the sound travel through the air and reach our ears. Noise is typically defined as an unwanted sound judged to be unpleasant, loud or disruptive to our hearing. From a physics standpoint though, noise is indistinguishable from sound, as both are vibrations through a medium, such as air or water.
So What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)?
It is estimated that at least 26 million Americans have hearing loss due to noise exposure. Sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, for a brief time, or for an extended time. These sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL can be immediate, or it can take a long time to become noticeable. It can be temporary or permanent, and it can affect one of your ears or both ears. Even if you can’t tell at the present moment that you are damaging your hearing, you could have trouble hearing in the future, such as not being able to understand other people when they talk, especially on the phone or in loud environments.
What Causes NIHL?
As stated before NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense spontaneous sound, such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud noises over an extended period.
Recreational activities or hobbies that can put you at risk for NIHL include target shooting and hunting, snowmobile riding, listening to music at a high volume through earbuds or headphones, playing in a band, and attending loud concerts. Harmful noises can even have an effect in your home such as using lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and other power tools.
Sound is measured in units called decibels. Sounds that are less than 75 decibels, even after prolonged exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, prolonged or repeated exposure to sounds at or greater than 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for it to affect your hearing.
These are the average decibel ratings of some familiar sounds:
- The humming of a refrigerator
- 45 decibels
- Normal conversation
- 60 decibels
- Noise from heavy city traffic
- 85 decibels
- 95 decibels
- An MP3 player at maximum volume
- 105 decibels
- 120 decibels
- Firecrackers and firearms
- 150 decibels
Signs of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss:
- You have trouble understanding what other people are saying, or it sounds like they are mumbling.
- You have pain in your ears following loud noise exposure.
- Other people comment that you’re talking loudly or shouting.
- You have tinnitus – ringing, whooshing, roaring or buzzing sounds in your ears – after noise exposure.
Other signs of NIHL include:
- Insomnia, even after noise stops
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Isolation due to hearing loss
- Depression due to hearing loss
Remember noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is preventable, but it can sneak up on you if you are not fully aware and taking proper precautions. Get your hearing tested, so you know where you stand.
If you have questions about hearing loss or hearing aids? We’ll be so happy to help! Please contact us today and schedule an appointment at one of our convenient hearing center locations: Branford, Waterbury, Hamden. The experts at Hearing, Balance & Speech are here for you to help you with not only hearing loss but your overall hearing health.