The noises that surround you may seem innocuous but over time, they can be detrimental to your healthy hearing. Permanent damage done to your ears by excessive noise is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL develops over time and accounts for the majority of hearing impairment for people under 65.
- NIHL typically develops over time but can develop instantaneously.
- Noise and aging are the most common causes of hearing loss in adults.
- Sudden NIHL caused by gunfire or explosions is the top cause of disability for combat veterans.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is a common accompanying condition to NIHL.
- NIHL can affect one or both ears to different degrees.
- NIHL is irreversible but hearing devices manage the condition.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a common, manageable condition affecting people of all ages. Causes include any number of activities: loud workplace environments; loud recreational activities like target shooting and hunting; loud sports or music venues; listening to personal listening devices at high volume; recurrent and extended (>8 hours) exposure to loud noises. Generally, the louder the sound, the quicker NIHL sets in.
Physiologically, NIHL occurs when the inner ear’s hair cells are destroyed. Ear hair cells that work properly transmit an electrical signal to the brain when sound waves enter the ear and stimulate the cells. Damaged hair cells are unable to properly transmit the signals and sound is distorted, resulting in impaired hearing.
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable through avoidance and hearing protection. If loud noises cannot be avoided, ear protection is recommended. Treatment for NIHL typically involves wearing hearing aids. Contact us for a thorough hearing evaluation and a discussion about hearing protection and treatment options.