How Loud is Too Loud? Prevention of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Many people today ages 13 to 32 are suffering from hearing loss. Mostly everyday we are exposed to sounds that are loud but at a safe decibel level.

However, when these sounds are too loud or we are around them for too long it can cause noise-induced hearing loss which is permanent.  Over exposure to loud noises and over usage of headphones are the main causes of hearing loss. Even moderate noise levels over long periods of time can cause hearing loss in time. Also, hearing loss can affect one or both of your ears to equal or varying degrees.

Harmful noise levels can affect a person’s hearing at any age. According to a Center for Disease Control study, seventeen percent of people ages twelve to nineteen are affected with noise-induced hearing loss. Six percent of adults under age seventy show signs of noise-induced hearing loss. These are huge numbers and affect a large portion of people in the U.S.

Environments containing dangerous noise levels are often difficult to avoid. Studies indicate that noise levels over 85 decibels have the capacity to permanently damage hearing. To put that in perspective, 85 decibels is roughly the noise level created from heavy city traffic. At these high levels, auditory signals travel through the outer and middle ear to the cochlea. When these signals reach the inner ear (cochlea), the amplitude of the signal contains too much energy for the sensitive nerve cells. These cells become damaged, eventually die, and cause a hearing loss.

Noise-Induced hearing loss can happen after a one-time exposure to a rough and loud “impulse” sound, such as an explosion, or heavy construction noises. Recreational activities that you may not think can harm your hearing like hunting, listening to music with headphones, and loud concerts can have a serious effect on your hearing. The Effects included dulled hearing sensitivity and difficulty understanding other people when they talk (especially on the phone or in a noisy room).

Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and progressive. That is, once acquired, the loss is incurable and will only worsen with time. The current most effective treatment of noise-induced hearing loss is amplification via hearing aids. However, due to the nerve damage associated with noise-induced hearing loss, amplified sound signals from hearing aids will still be perceived as distorted and unnatural.

Once hearing loss is suspected, it is important to get a hearing evaluation immediately. Supplemental amplification can help stimulate damaged cochlear nerve cells and slow their deterioration. Research suggests that this can slow the progression of hearing loss and enable a person with hearing loss to maintain higher levels of hearing ability.

It is very important to remember that noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable. Lowering the volume on personal listening devices and using hearing protection while in loud environments can greatly reduce the negative impact on your hearing. Take steps to protect others’ hearing around you, especially children’s, via education. It is important to have your hearing tested if you think you might have hearing loss.