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What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Nearly 50 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. Statistics show that almost 60% of those people are overexposed to loud noises at work and during leisure activities. There are many causes to hearing loss, whether it hereditary or age-related, but noise-induced hearing loss is the most common type people experience.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is caused from an ear being exposed to excessive loud noises over normal sound levels that damage the inner ear over time. This is called perceptive (sensorineural) hearing loss. It can be immediate or happen gradually over time. There are tiny hair cells that line our ears, and once they get damaged they do not grow back. Thus, the hearing loss process begins.

Noise levels should not exceed a decibel level of 85. Normal conversations happen on average at a decibel level of 60. Jobs that cause a person to be exposed to excessive levels could potentially suffer from hearing loss over time. Jobs that involve use of loud or heavy machinery, in a crowded area that is louder than the average room or require you to listen to or use ear buds.

Other situations can damage one’s hearing, like loud bursts of sound like a gunshot or explosion could rupture the eardrum. Side effects could be tinnitus, or buzzing in the ears. Studies have shown jobs like farming, ambulance drivers and rock stars or athletes can also suffer from Noise-Induced Hearing Loss due to their careers.

Symptoms can begin suddenly or develop slowly over time. Sudden bursts of noises could leave someone with ringing or buzzing in their ears. Long term effects could be headaches or dizziness. Other signs of NIHL are; having to turn volumes up louder than what others think is normal, asking others to speak louder or hearing sounds muffled and conversations are hard to understand.

Ways to prevent NIHL include:

  • Wearing earplugs if you are near loud speakers, intercoms or loud machinery
  • Be aware of the surroundings; know where the loudest parts are and avoid excessive contact
  • Protect your ears with earplugs
  • Don’t listen to loud volumes when using ear buds
  • Have you hearing tested regularly

If you think you may work in an environment that is causing you hearing loss or could over time, contact one of the physicians at Shea Clinic. To set up an appointment today, call 800-477-SHEA or locally at 901-762-9720.

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