Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

In Ear Health, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Zach Kenealey, HIS

Zach Kenealey, HIS

Did you know that over 20% of the population of the United States suffers from hearing loss? Hearing loss can result from various factors, including the natural aging process and injury, disease, or infection. Noise-induced hearing loss, or hearing loss caused by deafening noises, is one of the most common causes of hearing loss.

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a term that refers to hearing loss caused by noise.

Every day, we are subjected to excessive noise, ranging from noisy workplaces to road noise and even household noises such as appliances, vacuum cleaners, and televisions. Overexposure to all of these loud noises in our surroundings causes noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

You might think that your appliances aren’t that loud; they can’t possibly be causing hearing loss, right? True, these sounds aren’t loud enough to harm your hearing on their own. But it’s also about the length of your exposure. When you’re constantly exposed to so many loud sounds in your environment, your ears can’t cope with the noise, and you end up destroying your hearing.

The onset of NIHL might be sudden or gradual. When you’re exposed to loud noises all day, every day, your hearing deteriorates over time, and you’re considerably more likely to have hearing loss than people who spend their days in calm places. But hearing loss can also occur in as little as a few minutes – it only takes a second for your hearing to be permanently destroyed by a loud noise, such as a gunshot right next to your ear.

Hearing Loss and Decibel Levels

So, how loud is too loud? We’ll need to discuss decibel levels to solve this question. 

Decibels (dB) are a unit of measurement used to determine the volume and determine which noises are harmful to human hearing. Sounds that are less than 85 decibels are deemed safe. Normal conversation, the hum of the refrigerator, and watching TV at a low volume are all examples of safe sounds. When you’re exposed to sounds louder than 85 decibels, though, the delicate tissues of your inner ear are permanently damaged, and your hearing health suffers.

Sounds that can trigger noise-induced hearing loss

NIHL can be triggered by a variety of noises. The louder the sound, the more likely you are to acquire hearing loss and the less exposure you can endure before your hearing begins to deteriorate. 

If you go to the shooting range or use firearms without hearing protection, you’ll be hurting your hearing, as these sounds can reach 150 decibels! 

Other hazardous leisure activities to your hearing health include snowmobiling, boating, and setting off fireworks. Some household items, such as the lawnmower or leaf blower, can be as loud as 100-110 dB, so make sure you wear hearing protection.

Have you ever left a concert or a pub with a ringing or buzzing in your ears or the sensation that everything around you is muffled? This is a clear indication that the sounds were too loud, and you should put on hearing protection and take a break outside every now and again to rest your ears. Concerts are famously loud and can cause hearing loss in as little as an hour or even a few minutes.

The groups most at risk of noise-induced hearing loss

We’re all in danger of noise-induced hearing loss, unfortunately. 

Hearing loss is a danger for everyone who works in a noisy industry such as construction, manufacturing, or farming and those who reside in extremely noisy areas. Noise-induced hearing loss affects many seniors due to years of working in noisy environments without sufficient hearing protection. 

Even young people are affected by NIHL! The condition affects about 17% of adolescents and teens as a result of poor listening habits. While teenagers and children may not realize they’re doing anything other than listening to their favorite band, they’re actually harming their hearing and setting themselves up for a lifetime of hearing difficulties. 

How to treat noise-induced hearing loss

It’s time to take action if you suffer from noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss is more than just being unable to hear. You’ll find it challenging to follow conversations, have trouble understanding your grandchildren, and feel alienated and alone because you’ll be losing out on so many of the vital sounds around you. 

Visit us for a hearing evaluation to take the first step. Whatever the source of your hearing loss, we’ll help you choose the appropriate set of hearing aids to get you back to understanding those around you.