House Call: Noise Induced Hearing Loss

About 10 million Americans suffer irreversible noise-induced hearing loss or (NIHL). What’s more, as many as 17 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have features of their hearing that suggest NIHL in one or both ears.
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 10:39 AM EST
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - Welcome back to UHC’s House Call on WDTV. About 10 million Americans suffer irreversible noise-induced hearing loss or (NIHL). What’s more, as many as 17 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have features of their hearing that suggest NIHL in one or both ears. Joining us tonight is Daniel J. Merenda, MD, otolaryngologist at UHC ENT and Audiology in Bridgeport.

1). Doctor noise-induced hearing loss is often associated with decibel levels, what should we know about decibel levels and what are the symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss or (NIHL) occurs as a result of loud noises that damage the inner ear. Listening to music at volumes louder than 85 dB for long periods of time can cause permanent hearing loss.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) permit workers to listen to 85 dB for eight hours in a row. However, for every three dB above that, the time that is considered safe is divided in half. That means you are only recommended to listen at 88 dB for four hours, at 91 dB for two hours, at 94 dB for one hour, at 97 dB for 30 minutes, at 100 dB for 15 minutes, and so on.

The average portable music player is played at 100 dB, and cellphones or listening devices in the U.S. can produce a maximum of 115 dB. In particular, the “sounds of summer”—concerts, fireworks, motorcycles, sirens, and even firearms—can range anywhere from 95 to 150 decibels (dB). Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB can cause both temporary and permanent hearing loss

The symptoms of NIHL can be hard to tell in early stages. Hearing loss tends to occur first for high-pitched sounds only. Because of this, the volume of sound heard may be unchanged but the quality of it lessens. Over time, speech may be heard but not completely understood. The presence of background noise can make speech hard to understand. Also, ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) may occur as a result of NIHL.

2). How Does Noise Exposure Cause Hearing Loss?

Very loud sounds damage the hair cells of the cochlea, the hearing part of the inner ear. These sensitive structures are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain, where the brain converts them into meaningful sounds. Once damaged, hair cells cannot regrow and lose the ability to transmit sound.

When loud sounds are exposed to the ear for a short time, you may experience temporary hearing loss (also known as temporary threshold shift) or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). If the ear is exposed to loud sounds over longer periods of time, the hair cells can be damaged forever, causing permanent sensorineural hearing loss.

3). How Can You Help Protect Your Child’s Hearing?

Some helpful tips for protecting your or a loved one’s hearing include:

  • Although wearing earplugs, earmuffs, or other protection to lessen the impact of loud noise may not be fun for young people, parents should encourage their children—particularly those who are musicians—to protect their hearing. Earplugs can reduce sound energy hitting young ears by about 25 dB, and can mean the difference between healthy or lower hearing later in life.
  • Keep all personal music players, smartphones, gaming device headsets, televisions, and stereo equipment on a low volume.
  • If your children are exposed to other noisy environments or workplaces with loud machinery, help them choose quiet activities in their leisure time.

Remember: If you have to shout to hear yourself or someone else, or if ringing, diminished hearing, or a sense of fullness in the ears is experienced after noise exposure, the level of that noise is damaging. If you should have further questions or need to make an appointment, please contact UHC ENT and Audiology at 681-342-3570.

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