Remember: noise induced hearing loss is 100% preventable with proper hearing protection.
Types of Hearing Loss
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is usually a condition or disease that results in something blocking the sound pathway from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear. Once the sounds are loud enough, a person with conductive hearing loss can usually hear in the normal way. Often, this type of hearing loss is temporary and can be treated medically or surgically, generally resulting in a complete or partial improvement in hearing. Following the completion of medical treatment for the cause of conductive hearing loss, hearing aids are effective in correcting the remaining hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Like conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss reduces the intensity of sound, but it might also introduce an element of distortion into what is heard, resulting in sounds being unclear even when they are loud enough. Sensorineural hearing loss results from inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction. The reasons behind sensorineural hearing loss sometimes cannot be determined, typically do not respond favorably to medical or surgical treatments and are usually described as an irreversible, permanent condition. Sensorineural hearing loss is treated most often with hearing aids, assistive listening devices and audiologic rehabilitation. Over 90 percent of hearing loss in adults is sensorineural.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Sometimes a patient has both a conductive and sensorineural component to their hearing loss.
Causes of Hearing Loss and Prevention
Causes of hearing loss include:
Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, and one of the most common occupational injuries in the United States. A single shot from a shotgun, experienced at close range, may permanently damage your hearing in an instant. Repeated exposure to loud equipment or machinery may, over an extended period of time, present serious risk to hearing.
Dangerous levels of noise can come from working in noisy occupations or from engaging in dangerous recreational activities, such as:
- Hunting, gun fire or target shooting
- Recreational vehicles (motorcycles, snowmobiles, jet skis, etc.)
- Loud sporting events. A monster truck or tractor pull event easily reaches a loudness level of 110 dB and can damage hearing after no more than 30 minutes.
- Entertainment (movie theaters, night clubs and music concerts). The loudness level at an average rock concert is 120 dB. At this level, the unprotected ear may sustain some degree of permanent hearing loss after only 10 minutes of exposure.
- Fireworks or firecrackers
Occupations particularly under risk for hearing loss due to exposure to noise include:
- Firefighters and police officers
- Factory, heavy industry and construction workers
- Military personnel
- Musicians and entertainment industry professionals
If you have to raise your voice to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within an arm’s length away, the noise is likely in the dangerous range for extended time exposure. Some of the warning signs of the presence of or exposure to hazardous noise are as follows:
- You can’t easily hear someone three feet away
- You have a muffled or plugged feeling in your ears after leaving a noisy area
- You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise
- You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but you cannot understand them.
Remember: there is no cure for noise-induced hearing loss, but it is preventable.
Listen To Your Buds is a public education campaign that is aimed at preventing
noise-induced hearing loss by helping parents teach their children how
to use personal audio technology safely. Learn more »
What You Can Do to Protect Your Hearing
Develop behavior patterns that protect your hearing so you can continue to fully enjoy the activities. Be alert to hazardous noise. Since prevention is so critical, make sure that your family (especially children), friends and colleagues are aware of its hazards. Use earplugs or other hearing protection when exposed to loud noise.
- At home, turn down the volume on the television, radio and digital audio/video players (including those in your automobiles). Many retrofit car stereos reach a loudness level of 150 dB—more intense than most gunfire—and may cause permanent hearing loss. On average, the user of a digital audio/video player sets the volume level at 100 dB. This is the equivalent loudness level of a chainsaw, which can diminish the ability to hear after only two hours.
- A simple test to determine if the volume of a stereo headset is at a safe level or not: Can the user understand what is being said when a person talks to him/her standing at arm's length? If so, then the volume is probably at a safe level.
- Reduce the number of noisy appliances running at the same time in your personal environment.
- Avoid medications that can be dangerous to your hearing. Be sure to ask your physician about possible side effects on your hearing.
- Limit exposure time to noisy activities, such as concerts and hunting.
- If you work in an at-risk occupation, check with your employer to make sure you adequately protect your hearing according to OSHA regulations.
- Wear hearing protection, such as foam or silicone plugs or muffs. Custom fit hearing protection is available through the Allegiance Hearing Center. Foam and silicone plugs and muffs can also be purchased at sporting good or safety equipment suppliers, as well as local home improvement stores.
- Wear ear plugs or muffs when using loud equipment (such as chain saws, lawn mowers, power equipment and leaf blowers).
Adapted in part from www.betterhearing.org