Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDOCD), 10 million Americans suffer from hearing damage from noise, and 30 to 50 million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels every day. One in four adults (aged 20 to 69) has noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The good news is: this type of hearing loss is preventable!
Sounds can be harmful when they are too loud (even for a brief period of time), or when they are both lough and long-lasting. When we look at exposure to noise, we look at not only the intensity of the sound but also the duration one is exposed to that noise (ASHA, 2017).
0-70dBA: You can listen to sounds in this range as long as you want. This includes a typical conversation, dishwasher, sewing machine, and music set at low to moderate levels.
85-90dBA: Exposure for 8 hours or longer without protection can cause damage. This includes a lawnmower, city traffic, a motorcycle, a food processor, or a blow-dryer.
100dBA: Exposure for longer than 2 hours per day without protection can cause damage. This includes a hand-drill, snowmobile, pneumatic drill or a chainsaw.
115dBA: Exposure for longer than 15 minutes without protection can cause damage. This can include rock concerts and football games!
140dBA: Even a brief exposure to unprotected ears can cause hearing loss! This includes a firecracker near the ear, a gun blast and a jet engine. This is often termed “acoustic trauma” which denotes a one-time brief exposure followed by immediate permanent hearing loss, typically from a sound that exceeds 140dBA and sustained for less than .2 seconds (Mathur, 2016).
WARNING SIGNS OF NOISE-INDUCED HEARING LOSS:
NIDOCD (2017) reports these warning signs.
• Ears feel full after leaving noisy area.
• Sounds are muffled.
• Ringing or buzzing in the ear is noted after exposure.
• Difficulty understanding conversations.
• Difficulty hearing high pitched sounds (alarms, birds).
• Difficulty distinguishing some speech consonants (sat vs. fat).
• Hypersensitivity to certain sounds.
TEMPORARY THRESHOLD SHIFT:
Following a concert or exposure to noise, one may experience some of those warning signs. A temporary change in hearing ability may be present but hearing can recover over the next 16-72 hours. However, this may be a warning sign that sound was too loud, and you should take precaution so temporary changes do not become permanent changes. If after two weeks, normal hearing has not returned, it is likely some degree of permanent damage has occurred (NIDOCD, 2017).
PROTECTING YOUR HEARING FROM NOISE:
Remember, NIHL can be prevented. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2017) recommends the following.
• Wear earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to loud sounds.
• Wear earplugs or musician earplugs when at concerts or around live music.
• Move away from noise when possible.
• Always wear ear protection during shooting sports.
• For MP3 players and personal listening devices: decrease the amount of time you use headphones or earbuds. If you are wearing headphones and the person next to you can hear your music, it is too loud. If you cannot hear the person next to you speaking, the volume on your music device is too loud. An MP3 player at maximum volume can get up to 105dBA; basically, turn down the volume and protect your hearing.
If you are interested in custom noise protection, contact our office. We provide custom noise plugs as well as musician plugs which can reduce noise by 9dB to 27dB. We also provide “hunters’ ear protection.”
American Speech and Hearing Association. (2017). Noise. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Noise/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). How Do I Know if I Have Hearing Loss Caused by Loud Noise? Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing _loss/how_do_i_know_if_i_have_hearing_loss.html
Mathur, N. (2016). Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. Medscape. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/857813-overview
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2017). Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss