Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) occurs when the ear’s sensitive structures become damaged by loud noises (such as music) over time. Even quick exposure to an extremely loud noise can result in some degree of NIHL, though it can take a while for the hearing loss itself to become noticeable. More than likely, if you have ever attended a loud concert, you have experienced temporary NIHL, resulting in an odd, muffled sound and ringing for a number of hours after exposure.
Unfortunately, NIHL can be permanent, which is why it’s important to understand common causes, symptoms, and tips for prevention.
Common Causes of NIHL
One of the most common causes of NIHL is a sudden and unexpected loud noise. This could be anything from a loud gunshot without proper ear protection or even an explosion. However, in recent years, electronic devices and radios have become increasingly responsible for NIHL caused by listening to music too loudly.
Other potential causes of NIHL include sound from:
- noise generated by power tools in a workshop
- attending concerts
- playing music in a band
- landscaping and woodworking tools
Signs and Symptoms
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from NIHL don’t realize it right away, especially in situations where the hearing loss itself is gradual over time. In instances where NIHL is caused by a loud explosion or concert, however, many people report difficulty being able to hear conversations around them or feeling unsure about how loudly they’re speaking. Others may find that noises seem muffled or distorted. Some will end up suffering from a condition known as tinnitus, which causes a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. Especially worrisome is the fact that recent research has found that excessive noise may damage some of the nerve synapse connections in the pathways from the ear to the brain. In these situations, a simple hearing test may be normal, but the quality of the sound reaching the brain is diminished so that understanding speech in noise is difficult.
How to Prevent NIHL
The good news is that protecting yourself from NIHL is relatively simple. For starters, understand that noises at or above 85 decibels can cause long-term hearing loss (this includes anything louder than noise from typical city traffic). When engaging in loud activities like woodworking or even attending a concert, consider wearing earplugs or other ear protection. If you can’t reduce a loud noise at the source, do your best to distance yourself from it.
Finally, be sure to be on the lookout for signs of hearing loss and/or ringing and turn to an experienced hearing professional for help when needed. We have the resources and know-how to help assist hearing through the use of quality hearing aids and other assistive listening devices. Contact us today to learn more about your options for protecting your hearing or recovering quality of life that has been affected by hearing loss.