Noise-induced hearing loss is the only form of hearing loss that is preventable.
Very loud noise, such as using firearms, can cause you to lose your hearing almost instantly. You can damage your hearing in less than 15 minutes at loud sporting events or concerts or when listening to music through headphones at high volume. If the noise is not as loud but lasts a long time, such as when using noisy yard or farm equipment, hearing damage can build more slowly.
NIHL can happen to anyone at any age. Up to 24 percent of American adults under age 70 may have hearing loss due to noise exposure in one or both ears. Other studies have suggested that 13 to 18 percent of U.S. teens have signs of possible hearing loss from noise.
When sounds are too loud for too long, tiny bundles of hair-like structures that sit on top of hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. When hair cells are damaged, they cannot respond to sound, causing NIHL. In humans, hair cells cannot be fixed or replaced, so the hearing loss is permanent.
Because NIHL can build slowly over time, you might not notice the early signs of hearing loss.
This October, join us in spreading the word about these three easy steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss:
- Lower the volume: Set devices to a volume that still allows you to hear what is going on around you. Check the settings on your cell phone or audio device; most have volume limit controls.
- Move away from the noise: If possible, put distance between you and the source of the noise to reduce the potential impact on your hearing.
- Wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs: Have earplugs or earmuffs on hand so that you can use them if you can’t leave a noisy location. Both earplugs and earmuffs can be inexpensive and travel-friendly.
Speech and Hearing Associates provides custom ear plugs, sound-limiting headphones, and tinnitus management solutions.