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Noise-Induced Hearing Loss - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

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Noise-induced hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that is caused due to exposure to extremely loud noises. Scroll down to read more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Akshay. B. K.

Published At September 19, 2022
Reviewed AtMarch 2, 2023

What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

We are exposed to sounds every day in our life, but is it affecting our hearing? The answer to this question will be yes if it is too loud to damage your ear.

We hear a lot of sounds during the day, like from tv, vehicles, household appliances, animals, and ambient conversations. These sounds are at a sufficient volume that the ear can perceive and will not cause any damage to the structure of the ear. But when the sounds are too loud beyond a certain decibel, it can cause harmful effects on the ear. Unlike other types of hearing loss, noise-related hearing loss can be prevented. This type of hearing loss can be temporary or permanent.

What Causes Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

  • The sound-induced hearing loss can be sudden or can happen over a period of time. Sudden hearing loss can occur on exposure to sounds like explosions, blasts, or gunfire. The other one can happen on exposure to loud noises over a period of time.

  • There are tiny hair-like cells present in the inner ear, which are responsible for converting sound vibrations into electrical signals which are transmitted to the brain. In this type of hearing loss, these hair cells die. Once these hair cells are destroyed, they cannot grow back.

  • Some of the recreational activities can increase the risk of getting NIHL, like shooting and hunting, listening to music at high volume through earphones, attending loud concerts, and playing in bands.

  • The unit for measuring sound is decibel. The sounds below or equal to 70 A-weighted decibels (dBA) are found to be the safe limit. The sounds within this limit do not cause noise-induced hearing loss even on listening for a long duration. The sounds at or above 85 dBA on long exposure or repeated exposure can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the more time it takes for hearing loss.

  • The distance between the sound source and the listener and also the exposure time are the factors that will help to prevent hearing loss.

What Are the Symptoms of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Patients with noise-induced hearing loss will find it difficult to hear high-frequency sounds. In order to detect this, a hearing test is done and is recorded on an audiogram. In the audiogram, there will be a dip to the right known as a noise-notch pattern.

These persons will find it difficult to understand the words with the sound “s,” “f,” “sh,” and “th” in them. They will be able to hear what you are saying, yet it will be hard to understand what you are saying.

Along with the above-said signs, they can be accompanied by the following symptoms too:

  • There can be a pain in the ear following exposure to sudden loud noise like an explosion.

  • Tinnitus may be present, which is the constant ringing sound heard in the ear that is not from an external source.

  • Patients may also experience double hearing or diplacusis, but it is seen in rare scenarios.

How Can I Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

The noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented, unlike other types of hearing loss. We will be discussing the ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss below:

  • Know which noises can be harmful to the ears. Having proper knowledge about the sounds which can be harmful to the ears will help you to avoid those situations.

  • Use disposable foam earplugs. They will be effective when you know you are going to get exposed to loud noises. These earplugs will reduce the sound by 20 to 30 decibels, which is useful in most situations. They can also be custom molded so as to fit in the ear properly.

  • Listen to music at a lower volume. Earphones and earpods are directly placed in the ear canal, and the loud noise will be directly delivered to the eardrum. So be aware of the consequences of this while listening to music in earphones or earbuds at high volume.

  • You cannot always avoid situations where there is loud noise but be aware of the hazards when you are exposed to the sound. If you find a construction site and it is known that there will be loud noise coming from that place, try avoiding such places when you walk. If you cannot avoid it, just try to maintain a safe distance from the noise source.

  • Earmuffs completely cover the ear and form a seal, and they also reduce the sound by 15 to 30 decibels. You can put earplugs and earmuffs together for better voice reductions.

  • If you suspect you have hearing loss, consult a doctor and get your ear tested for hearing loss.

What Other Effects Do Loud Noises Have on Us?

Hearing loss can affect your day-to-day living. It also affects your quality of life. Along with hearing loss, loud noises can have other effects on us, such as:

  • Anxiety.

  • Stress.

  • Hypertension.

  • Sleeplessness.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Isolation from society due to hearing loss.

  • Depression.

How Do You Treat Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent, and there is no way to cure this condition. The only option is to cope with this so that it does not affect your living to a great extent by using a hearing aid. A hearing aid is an electrical device that is wearable, which enables a person to hear sounds better and understand speech more clearly, providing an improvement in overall communication. However, if the hearing loss worsens over a period of time, then the hearing aid will be of no use; in such conditions, a cochlear implant might be needed.

Conclusion

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud noises. This effect can be temporary or permanent. Although there is no treatment for this condition, unlike other types of hearing loss, it can be prevented. Always protect yourselves from loud noises as the effect can be unpredictable sometimes. To safeguard yourselves from loud noises, you can use earplugs, ear foams, or other methods so as to avoid exposure to loud noises.

The symptoms and signs of this condition are difficult to understand what the other person speaks. When you are exposed to sudden explosive sound, it can cause pain in the ear. When the patient feels he is unable to communicate effectively in society, he will try to isolate himself from others, and this can have other psychological effects on the patient. So when you suspect hearing loss, always go for a consultation with a doctor, as diagnosing earlier is better than getting the symptoms worsened.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How to Diagnose Hearing Loss?

- A physical examination is conducted to identify the cause of hearing loss. The condition may develop due to earwax, infection, or hearing problems.
- The whisper test is used as a screening test. In this test, ears are covered one at a time when listening to words at different volumes.
- App-based hearing tests on mobile or tablet can help with self-screening for hearing loss.
- A two-pronged metal instrument called a tuning fork that makes a sound when hit can diagnose hearing loss. 
- An audiometer test can diagnose hearing loss by directing sounds and words through earphones to each ear. The test is repeated for low levels to find the lowest sound that can be heard.
 
Dr. Akshay. B. K.
Dr. Akshay. B. K.

Otolaryngology (E.N.T)

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