Nature of Noise Induced Hearing Loss

We experience sound in our environment, such as the sounds from traffic jams, television, radio and equipments around you. Normally, we hear these sounds at safe levels that do not affect our hearing. But when we are exposed to harmful noise or sound that are too loud or sounds that are loud and played for a long time—sensitive structures in our inner ear can be distorted, causing noise induced hearing loss. Sensitive structures that called hair cells are small sensory cells in the inner ear that transfer sound energy into electrical signals that voyage to the brain and the life of these hair cells are irreversible.

It was once believed that the pure force of vibrations from loud sounds is the reason why hair cells are damaged. Instead, current studies have said that exposure to harmful noise triggers the formation of molecules inside our ear that destroys hair cells.

Symptoms of Noise Induced Hearing Loss

One reason people fail to notice the danger of noise is that too much exposure to noise causes few symptoms. The symptoms are usually vague feelings of pressure or fullness in the ears, speech that seems to be far away, and a ringing sound in the ears that you notice when you are in serene places. These symptoms may be lost after hours or days, after the exposure to the sound.

People assume that if the symptoms go away, their ears will be back to normal – which is basically not true. Even if there are no more symptoms, some of the cells in the inner ear may have been destroyed by the noise. Your hearing returns to normal if enough healthy cells are left in your inner ear. But you will develop a lasting noise induced hearing loss if the noise exposure is repeated and more cells are destroyed.

The first symptom of a noise induced hearing loss is not hearing high-pitched sounds, like the singing of birds. If the damage continues, hearing declines further and lower pitched sounds become now even hard to understand.

How to Prevent Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

To avoid noise induced hearing loss, avoid hazardous sound environments. If you are in an environment where you must raise your voice to be heard, you are in a potentially hazardous environment for your hearing. This includes loud music performances, regardless of musical genre, and activities such as operating power tools, driving loud vehicles, or driving with the windows down, etc. Use hearing protection devices – such as foam earplugs, earmuffs or custom earplugs – whenever possible. You should try to monitor sounds in excess of 85 dB or else this could grow to a temporary hearing loss.