Noise Induced Hearing Loss
You may not consider noise to pose a significant threat to your health, but it can have a big impact on your hearing. Permanent and / or temporary hearing loss can be caused by exposure to noise and could occur in one or both ears. It is estimated that 1 in 4 U.S. adults aged 20-69 show symptoms of Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
NIHL can occur immediately, or it may develop over a prolonged period of exposure to dangerous noise levels. NIHL is affecting a growing number of people, but it is a preventable form of hearing loss.
How Does Noise Damage Your Hearing?
To understand how noise can damage your hearing, it’s first important to understand how your hearing works. When sound waves (which are vibrations) reach our ears, they are transformed into electrical signals. These signals then travel along the auditory nerve, and interpreted by the brain allowing us to ‘hear’. Tiny hair cells that sit on top of the ears basilar membrane are an integral part of this process. When damaged, the tiny hairs do not grow back, resulting in a hearing loss. The majority of NIHL is the result of damage to these hair cells.
What is Considered Dangerous Noise?
The first step towards protecting yourself from noise induced hearing loss is understanding different noise levels. Awareness of dangerous noise levels is an important part of this. According to the NIDCD, prolonged exposure to noise above 85 decibels (dB) can cause gradual NIHL. To put this into perspective, this is the noise level of your average lawn mower. Here are some other common noises you are likely exposed to:
- The refrigerator humming: 45 dB
- Normal conversation: 60 dB
- Heavy congestion or city traffic: 85 dB
- Motorcycles: 90 dB
- Average headphones at max volume: 105 dB
- Emergency vehicle sirens: 120 dB
- Firearms and firecrackers: 150 dB
How Can You Protect Your Hearing?
Now that you have an idea of the noise levels around you, you’ve taken the first step to protecting your hearing. It’s not always possible to avoid exposure to loud noises. But you can take preventative measures when you know you will be in a noisy environment. Make sure you are wearing appropriate hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs. Avoid listening to your headphones at high volumes for prolonged periods of time. Give your ears time to detox after exposure to loud noises. Importantly, stay on top of your annual hearing assessments to detect any changes in your hearing early. Read more about Hearing Loss Prevention here.
Come & Meet the Experts at Anderson Audiology
We are here for you and all your hearing health needs. If you are concerned about the possibility of noise induced hearing loss or have any questions about hearing assessments, contact us at Anderson Audiology and schedule an appointment today with one of our hearing professionals at one of our five convenient audiology clinic locations in southern Nevada.