Noise-induced Hearing Loss is a permanent form of Sensorineural Hearing Loss which can either result from a one-off exposure to an intensely loud sound, such as and explosion, or through the prolonged exposure to series of loud noises. Both forms of Noise-induced Hearing Loss occur because of overstimulation and damage to nerve hair cells and supporting structures in the Cochlea – the organ that senses sound.
A temporary Noise-induced Hearing Loss is known as Temporary Hearing Threshold Shift where the hearing abilities return 16 to 48 hours after hearing the loud noise, which caused the hearing loss.
All Noise-induced Hearing Loss is preventable.
Symptoms of Noise-induced Hearing Loss
It can be difficult to know you have a noise-induced hearing loss, as its onset can be very gradual and difficult to notice over time. However, there are some symptoms that can suggest a Noise-induced Hearing Loss could be present. They are:
- An inability to hear higher pitched sounds;
- Difficulty in hearing conversations in noisy rooms; and
- Other people’s speech sound muffled and far away.
If left untreated, your hearing can continue to deteriorate and impact on your ability to hear lower frequencies that can include being able to understand speech.
Although there is ongoing research into how to treat Noise-induced Hearing Loss in the hours or days immediately following exposure, the best course of action is to protect your hearing from the loud sound in the first place.
Wear hearing protection
By taking the right measures, such as wearing hearing protection like ear plugs and ear muffs when you know loud sounds will be in your immediate environment, Noise-induced Hearing Loss can be avoided.
All Australian states have legislation in place to prevent Noise-induced Hearing Loss in the workplace.
The increased use of using earbuds and headphones coupled with listening to loud music at public venues, such as clubs, bars and concert are increasing the risks of acquiring a Noise-induced Hearing Loss in Australia, especially among young people.
Sound level meter apps for smartphones are available if you want to be able to assess the approximate level of sound in your environment. However as a rule of thumb, if you’re listening to music and you can’t understand someone talking at a normal volume from a distance of one metre, the music is probably too loud.
See a hearing health professional
Make an appointment to see a hearing health professional, such as an audiologist or audiometricist, who can test your hearing and work out if you have a hearing loss.
From your hearing test results, an audiologist will then know the specifics of your hearing loss such as which ear is most affected and at what frequencies. The audiologist will use this information to determine what kind of treatment is required to manage your hearing loss, including if you would benefit from a hearing device such as Hearing Aids.