In 2017, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found approximately 24% of U.S. adults aged 20 to 69 displayed signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). In fact, it’s estimated that there are up to 40 million U.S adults with noise induced hearing loss. As we’re approaching April 24th, International Noise Awareness Day, we wanted to take a look at what is noise induced hearing loss? And how can you prevent it?
What is NIHL?
Noise-induced hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss. Sufferers typically have a gradual reduction in high frequency hearing sensitivity. This often happens in both ears, but not always evenly. However, it is possible for an acoustic trauma i.e firing a rifle to cause asymmetric (1-sided) NIHL. It’s also possible to experience sudden hearing loss if a sound is loud enough and causes immediate damage to your ears. The hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Accompanying symptoms of tinnitus are also extremely common.
NIHL happens because of damage to the sensitive hair cells of the inner ear, which are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain for interpretation.
The more damage to the hair cells – the greater the hearing loss.
How to Prevent NIHL
The first and most important step to preventing NIHL is awareness of the noise levels around you. Exposure to sounds above 85 dB for a prolonged period can cause damage, and very loud sounds (120 dB+) can cause immediate damage.
For context, here are some examples…
- The humming of a refrigerator: 45 dB
- Normal conversation: 60 dB
- Noise from heavy city traffic: 85 dB
- Motorcycles: 90 dB
- An MP3 player at maximum volume: 105 dB
- Sirens: 120 dB
- Firecrackers and firearms: 150 dB
Be mindful of open plan offices, bars, live music venues or sporting events. Also pay attention to home machinery such as lawn-mowers and leaf-blowers.
Signs To Watch Out For
If you experience the following, it’s a sign that your environment is too loud:
- You can’t understand someone talking from three feet away
- Your ears feel “full” when you move somewhere quiet
- After being somewhere noisy – you hear ringing or buzzing
- After being somewhere noisy it’s difficult to follow conversation
If you can, move further away from the noise or give yourself quiet breaks.
It’s not always possible to avoid exposure to loud noises. There are, however, protective measures you can take such as earplugs or headphones. If you’d like to discuss hearing protection options, the team at Come Hear Hearing Center would be happy to help. Please call (864) 546-5708 for further advice, or click here to request an appointment online.