Are you starting to notice that you don’t hear as well as you used to, especially after a noisy night – at the theatre, for example? Has your hearing been affected after years of working or living in a noisy environment? Did a sudden change in sound level result in you losing your hearing in both ears? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the chances are that you may be experiencing noise-induced hearing loss. 

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) has reported that 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 to 69 experience hearing loss induced from exposure to noise at leisure or work. So, can noise-induced hearing loss be temporary, or is it always permanent? Let’s take a closer look.

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

There is no way to escape sound or noise in our lives – traffic, household appliances, barking dogs, the radio, rowdy neighbors, television – the list goes on. Such sounds are generally safe and pose no risks. However, when sounds become too loud, they can be very harmful, even if only for a brief period. These loud sounds may damage the ear’s sensitive structures, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL may happen immediately or over a long period, depending on the noise level and how often a person is exposed. It can be either permanent or temporary and can affect both ears or just one. 

Who can be affected by NIHL?

Exposure to harmful noise levels can happen to anyone at any stage of life. It can happen to people of all ages, from adults to children, and even newborn babies. This is why it is essential to ensure that you practice good hearing health at all times.

What causes noise-induced hearing loss?

NIHL is caused by sudden exposure to intense impulse sound or regular exposure to loud noise over a long period. An example of such a sound is a loud explosion. A typical example of regular exposure to loud noise is working in a woodworking shop. Certain recreational activities such as hunting and target shooting, regularly listening to music at loud volumes, playing in a band, or attending loud concerts can also put a person at risk of NIHL, either over some time or instantly. In and around the home, harmful noises or sounds usually come from sources like lawnmowers, power tools, and leaf blowers.

Sound waves are measured in decibels. Usually, sounds that fall below 70 decibels are safe, even after exposure to them over long periods. Exposure to sounds above 70 decibels is where it gets risky, potentially causing hearing loss.

How can noise damage our hearing?

Our ability to hear depends on a series of events that convert sound waves into the atmosphere into electrical signals. These signals are carried into the brain through the ear canal via the eardrums, hair cells, and other parts of the auditory system. Once it reaches the brain, an electrical signal is translated into a sound that we understand, recognize, and appreciate.

Most noise-induced hearing loss arises due to the irreparable damage and resulting death of the hair cells located in the cochlea in the inner parts of the ear canal. Unfortunately, once these cells are damaged or dead, they cannot grow back.

Can noise-induced hearing loss be temporary?

Back to our question – can NIHL be temporary? Although noise-induced hearing loss is one of the few kinds of hearing loss issues that may occasionally disappear over time, it is usually permanent. If you ever experience NIHL, try resting your ears for around 16 hours to give them enough time to recover. If the problem persists, it is crucial that you consult an audiologist.

Remember, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. As long as you know the conditions or hazards that put your auditory health at risk, you can avoid them as much as you can. Eat healthy foods that boost blood circulation and ensure that you exercise regularly. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables can help provide those all-important hair cells with enough blood to keep them alive and healthy. It is vital to ensure that you pay regular visits to your audiologist for ear examinations. Doing so may also help to identify other hearing-related issues before they become a problem.
To learn more about noise-induced hearing loss, visit Sommerville Audiology & Hearing Aid Center. Reach out on this phone number: Tarentum: (724) 224-6811, Vandergrift: 586-298-3788. Our experienced audiologists are always ready to help.