Exposure to loud noises can damage the hair cells of the inner ear, resulting in high-frequency hearing loss and/or tinnitus (ringing in the ears or head). The duration and amount of exposure determines the degree of damage to hearing and whether or not it is permanent. Cumulative noise exposure usually results in permanent hearing loss or tinnitus, but a one-time exposure can also be damaging. More than ever before, noise-induced hearing loss is prevalent in younger individuals even though it is preventable.
Protective devices, such as earplugs, ear muffs, or musician plugs are invaluable in preventing hearing loss. Routine monitoring of hearing thresholds is recommended as a safeguard to address this concern.
How Can Sounds Hurt Your Ears?
Background sound is a constant in our busy lives. Normally, background noises are at safe levels that do not negatively impact our hearing. But repeated exposure to noise above 85 decibels (dB) can cause noise induced hearing loss. The louder the sound, the less amount of time it takes to damage your hearing.
Average Decibel Rating of Common Sounds
- Normal conversation: 60 dB
- City traffic: 80-85 dB
- Motorcycle: 95 dB
- Sporting events: 100 dB
- Ambulance sirens: 120 dB
- Firecrackers: 140 dB
Can Activities Damage Your Hearing?
It is estimated that 24 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 experience hearing loss that is the result of exposure to excessive noise either at work or through recreational activities. High-risk pursuits include:
- Riding motorcycles and snowmobiles
- Attending rock concerts
- Listening to music at high volume through ear buds or headphones
- Mowing the lawn
- Using a leaf blower
Signs of Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often develops gradually and may not be immediately noticeable. If conversations and other noises sound distorted or muffled, you may be experiencing early symptoms.
Other signs include:
- Frequently asking people to repeat themselves when speaking.
- Watching TV or listening to the radio with the volume set at a level uncomfortable to others.
How Do You Treat Noise-induced Hearing Loss?
The most common treatment method for this hearing loss type is the use of a hearing aid.
Noise induced hearing loss can occasionally be temporary and hearing may return after 16 to 48 hours, but damage may still have occurred. If you have already suffered from noise damage, existing damage to your hearing cannot be repaired, but prevention methods can keep more damage from occurring.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
Noise induced hearing loss is typically preventable.
An awareness of activities that can cause hearing damage is key. When exposed to loud noise, be sure to wear earplugs or other protective devices. We carry custom earplugs designed for specific activities such as hunting and listening to live music. Keep the volume at a reasonable level while listening to music through headphones.
Regular hearing tests can help identify problems early, reducing your risk of developing long-term damage.
Call North Shore Audio-Vestibular Lab at (847) 432-5555 for more information or to schedule an appointment.