Prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as loud music, construction noise, or aircraft noise, can cause permanent hearing loss. This permanent hearing loss can also be caused by shorter bursts of loud noise such as gunfire, explosions, air horns, etc. In either case, this is called noise-induced hearing loss.
Not all noises will harm your ears. It depends on how loud the noise is, the pitch and how long you are exposed to the noise. The more extreme the noise, the shorter the time you need to be exposed to get hearing loss. The opposite is true as well; the quieter the noise, the longer your exposure will need to be to get hearing loss.
Symptoms of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
It is easy to overlook or ignore the symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss. It isn’t necessarily painful, so you could easily ignore them. This makes noise-induced hearing loss even more dangerous. Here are a few example symptoms:
- Pressure in the ears
- Speech seems far away or very quiet
- Ringing in the ears
An early warning sign is not being able to hear high-pitched sounds. Another is not being able to understand someone talking while in a crowd or a place with a lot of noise.
Signs a Noise Is Too Loud
There are a few signs that a noise is too loud. Remember that once you notice a noise is too loud, you should immediately find a way to stop hearing it.
- Needing to shout to be heard because of the sound
- Being unable to understand someone who is less than 2 feet away
- A person being able to hear sounds from your headset while you are wearing it
Cause of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
The inner ear (not the middle nor the external ear) is located inside the skull. This part consists of soft tissue made of different nerves and cells. There are also large tubes full of fluid surrounding the inner ear. Hearing impairment occurs when the inner ear is damaged.
The nerves and cells of the inner ear can be destroyed by continuous and repeated exposure to loud noises. This is what causes hearing loss. Should you destroy enough cells or nerves, the hearing loss becomes permanent.
Diagnosing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
When you first approach your doctor about any noise-induced hearing loss symptoms, they will offer a hearing test to determine if you have hearing loss. Should the test return saying that you have hearing loss, you will be sent to an audiologist (ear professionals) or to an otolaryngologist (ear and hearing disorder specialist) for a more in-depth hearing test.
The results of this test will determine what degree of hearing loss you have (mild, moderate, profound). This test also identifies which frequencies/pitches you can no longer hear. The doctor may recommend you see an audiologist to receive hearing aids.
Hearing loss can be insidious; you might not notice it until it is too late, and this is because it can happen over a long period. If you have noticed any symptoms or early warning signs, be sure to consult a doctor.
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