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Life on the wild side can be invigorating

But it can be noisy, too. Whether you’re an avid concert goer or work in a loud environment, noise-induced hearing loss is no small matter. Understanding the risks and learning how you can protect your ears from dangerous decibels is the best weapon you can have in the battle against noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss

Noise is an occupational hazard

In a busy, bustling world, loud noise is all around us. Chainsaws and power tools may be the first thing to come to mind, but even long exposure to noise from a hair dryer or your smoothie maker can do harm to the tiny hair cells in your inner ear. That’s right, even sounds that appear comfortable can be harmful after a while.

With the volume turned up to what may seem to be a comfortably loud 85 dB, you’re already at the limit of safe sound. Turn the volume up to 88 dB and, in 4 hours time, you can do permanent damage. Regardless of your hobbies or occupation, what we think of as everyday sounds can take their toll. Since the collateral effects of untreated hearing loss can include the increased risk of dementia or cognitive decline, falls, cardiovascular disease, social isolation, depression and anxiety, understanding what to look out for and how to protect your hearing is all the more important.
More about decibels

What are the symptoms

When it’s hard to make out conversation, when the words seem to “run together” in a jumble, you may have a noise-induced hearing loss. High-pitched sounds, especially those you might (not) want to hear, such as a baby crying or your boss calling you after 8pm, may not be heard at all. That ringing in your ears (called tinnitus) is a common symptom of noise overexposure, and it can make falling sleep or concentration into your new battleground harder. This sounds familiar? Try out our free hearing online test to find out more.
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Hearing loss symptoms

Noise-induced hearing loss can be temporary

Temporary hearing loss, also known as temporary threshold shifts, is common in those exposed to excessive noise. But don’t get too comfortable. Although one can recover completely, repeated episodes of such noise can give way to permanent threshold shifts. In this case, the hair cells in the inner ear are progressively lost or degenerated.

Fascinating fact

When you leave a loud concert and cannot hear properly for a few hours afterwards, it means that the hair cells in your inner ear are bent like blades of grass in the wind. After a few hours, they usually straighten out again and hearing returns to normal.

Noise-induced hearing loss: FAQ

What type of hearing loss is caused by loud noises?

Noise-induced hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss. It’s called sensorineural because your inner ear or auditory nerve, which translates signals to the brain, have been affected. 

Do hearing aids help noise-induced hearing loss?

Without a doubt, the best treatment for noise-induced hearing loss is hearing aids.

What frequencies are affected by noise-induced hearing loss?

High-pitched frequencies, such as the sound of your phone or the timer on the oven, are affected by noise-induced hearing loss (that can mean a lot of burnt bread and cookies). Eventually, the level of speech distinction will also be affected. 

Does noise-induced hearing loss get worse over time?

Yes, it is cumulative and it can be gradual, like a slow erosion that gets worse as you age. It can be in either both ears or one and can be temporary or permanent. 

Can you recover from noise-induced hearing loss?

Surprisingly, you can recover 100% from noise-induced hearing loss. Sometimes those inner ear hairs are only temporarily bent (yes, bent), but you should inform your doctor at the very first indications.

How can noise-induced hearing loss be prevented?

There are several steps you can take to prevent noise-induced hearing loss and the damaging effects of loud noise. Always wear hearing protection around any source of loud noise. If you’re using headphones, make sure the volume is not set at a high volume. You can even set noise thresholds on your smartphones to avoid exceeding a specific decibel limit. Finally, move away from loud noise sources, such as not standing in front of the speakers at a concert.

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