Understanding Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise Induced Hearing Loss, or NIHL, is a condition that can happen immediately or can take years to develop. Most everyday noises are at a safe enough level to where they do not cause any harm to our eardrums. But sounds that are too loud, even if you are exposed to them for just a short period of time, are harmful and often cause NIHL to occur.

Causes of NIHL

NIHL can be caused by two things- continuous exposure to very loud noises over a period of months or years, or by being exposed to an intense “impulse” sound just once, for example; an explosion. War veterans are one class of individuals who have suffered hearing loss from the latter, as many have been subjected to extreme explosions and gunfire during times of war. Often, the eardrum is ruptured, causing permanent damage to occur.

There are numerous activities that can put a person at risk for NIHL that many people don’t properly pay attention to. Mowing the lawn, using woodworking tools, listening to loud music through headphones and firearm target practice are all activities that are risks for NIHL. Farmers who drive tractors and operate other heavy machinery without the proper ear protection can greatly increase their risk of hearing loss over time. Construction workers or road crewmen and women should also wear protection at all times while on the job and around loud noises. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, increasing the risk of hearing loss for that individual.

farmer not using ear protection

Why Hearing Loss Occurs- Decibels and Sound

Decibels are the unit in which sound is measured. When exposed to a decibel level of 85 or more, hearing loss is likely to occur. As sounds get louder, NIHL is more likely to become prevalent. To put it into perspective, the humming coming from an average refrigerator runs around 45 decibels. A motorcycle passing by is 95 decibels. Someone shooting a gun will subject their ears (and anyone close by) to a decibel of 150.

Hearing loss is often a gradual process that the individual doesn’t even realise is happening. Some choose to ignore it and blame others for speaking too quietly. Sounds may become muffled and distorted and it becomes harder to hear someone over the telephone or on the TV. The damage done by loud noises gets worse with age until the individual has such severe loss they need a hearing aid to go about their daily activities.

For more information about hearing loss and how to correct the problem, please contact us at your earliest convenience.