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Why Loud Noise Causes Hearing Loss – Hearing Loss Treatment

Why Does Loud Noise Cause Hearing Loss?

Since the onset of the Industrial Age in the late 1800s, the world has become an extremely noisy place. The invention of automobiles, factory machinery, radios, television, and construction equipment quickly replaced the quiet sounds of nature and the silence of rooms without entertainment centers or huge computer monitors blaring the latest Netflix film. Since our ears did not evolve in such a cacophonous setting, they do not endure well under the constant barrage of loud noises emerging from our homes, our workplace, and our cities.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a permanent condition caused mostly by prolonged and repeated exposure to noises exceeding a certain decibel level. However, NIHL can happen if you are exposed to sudden and intense sounds like explosions, gunshots or other similar blasts of noise.

When extremely powerful sound waves hit the inner ear mechanism, the waves overstimulate sensitive hair cells supporting transmission of auditory signals to the brain. If the sounds are loud enough, this stimulation is enough to injure or kill hair cells permanently. No hearing loss treatment exists for NIHL because hair cell function cannot be restored.

Sound Decibels and Hearing Loss

Sound intensity, or loudness, is measured in dBs, or decibels. The decibel scale begins at 0 and extends to 180+ decibels – for example, the sound of a rocket launching if you were standing on the launch pad. Audiologists agree that continual exposure to noises over 85 decibels may eventually cause various degrees of NIHL. Factory workers were frequently diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss before wearing hearing protection in manufacturing facilities was mandated in the 1970s.

To put decibel measurements in perspective, sounds registering 30 dB include whispering, rustling leaves or a burbling brook. Vacuum cleaners and toilets flushing register at 75 decibels and gas-powered lawn mowers reach about 90 dBs. In addition to decibels, the distance you are from the noise also factors in when considering whether hearing protection is needed.

Chainsaw, snowmobile, and construction drill noises impact your ears at 100 dBs. The maximum exposure to 100 dB noises is two hours every 24 hours before you should wear hearing protection to prevent damage to hair cells. Rock concerts, sandblasting, and vehicle horns typically measure 120 dBs. Listening to more than 15 minutes of a 120-decibel noise without protection could impair your hearing permanently.

Finally, jet engines, gunshots and other noises that sometimes cause pain within the ear will definitely kill many hair cells and could produce a noticeable and immediate loss of hearing.

Hearing Loss Treatment

The best treatment for noise-induced hearing loss is to wear hearing aids. Although Harvard scientists have recently written about successfully regenerating hair cells in mice, the ability to recreate this procedure in humans may be five or more years away. Reducing your risk of suffering noise-induced hearing loss starts with taking proactive steps toward protecting your hearing from high-decibel sounds.

When listening to music, use earbuds instead of headphones to better block intrusion of external noise that may cause you to turn up the sound. Listening to music at loud volume while wearing headphones has produced an epidemic of NIHL among younger people who may not notice the detrimental effects of damaged hair cells until they enter their 50s. When combined with age-related hearing loss, NIHL could potentially lead to suffering over 90 percent hearing loss.

Testing for Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Traditional hearing tests involve the person sitting in a soundproof room or booth and listening to different sounds through headphones. Sounds sent through the headphones consist of a series of beeps at different decibel levels, pitch and frequencies.

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Results of a hearing test are presented on an audiogram. This graph shows you how well you hear soft sounds and sounds of various pitches and frequencies. After a trained audiologist interprets the results, they will explain the degree of hearing loss affecting each ear. They may also suggest obtaining hearing aids if hearing loss is moderate to substantial.

Beltone has been the leading provider of hearing aids in the U.S. since 1940 and continues to offer the most advanced, attractive and comfortable hearing aids available. Today’s hearing aids are not the bulky, visible kind of the past but tiny, in-your-ear, digital aids that can be adjusted to accommodate all types of hearing needs.

In addition to allowing you to hear all the wonderful sounds of life, Beltone’s digitally enhanced hearing aids reduce background noise, offer digital sound streaming, come equipped with anti-feedback controls and let you switch to listening programs appropriate for a variety of environments.

If you have been diagnosed with age-related or noise-induced hearing loss, call us today at 1-866-530-9145 to find a Beltone dealer near you.


Learn More About How to Avoid Hearing Loss