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What is noise-induced hearing loss?

October 30, 2018

Every day, we are exposed to various sounds, be it from television and radio, household appliances, traffic, people talking or animals. Normally, these sounds are at safe levels that don’t damage our hearing. The louder the sound is and the longer we are exposed to it, the more likely it will damage our hearing. Exposure to loud noise for extended periods can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

Noise-induced Hearing Loss can be immediate or may take time to become noticeable, and the hearing loss can be temporary or permanent depending on the level of damage done.


What causes Noise-induced Hearing Loss?
As the name suggests, excessive noise is the cause of NIHL. It may be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense sound, such as a gunshot or an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time (eg. use of power tools in a workshop).

How loud is too loud?
Sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). A whisper is about 30 dB, normal conversation is about 60 dB, and a motorcycle engine is about 95 dB. Noise above 85 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm.


Exposure to loud noises over time causes irreversible damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss.


Source: CDC  Vital Signs, February 2017 


You may have experienced temporary hearing loss and / or tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears or head) following exposure to loud noise at a party, music concert or sporting event. Often this temporary hearing loss and tinnitus seem to improve after 16 to 48 hours, however, recent research suggests, that although the symptoms seem to disappear, there may be residual long-term damage to your hearing or return of tinnitus in the future.


What can you do to protect your hearing?
Researchers have found that people who are exposed to noise levels at 85dB or higher over long periods of time are at a much greater risk for hearing loss. That’s why some workers are required to wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, while they are on the job.

It’s also important to limit exposure to loud noises outside of the workplace. Here are some things you can do to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss;

  • Be aware of which noises can cause damage (those at or above 85 dB) and limit the time of exposure
  • Wear earplugs or protective ear muffs when operating noisy tools (eg. drills, lawn mowers, jackhammers, leaf blowers)
  • Keep the volume down when watching TV, listening to music, and using earbuds or headphones
  • If you can’t reduce the noise or protect yourself from it, move away from it
  • Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own
  • Spread the word and make family, friends, and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise
  • Have your hearing tested by a qualified audiologist if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss

What can you do if you suspect you have Noise-induced Hearing Loss?
Call HearClear Audiology today to make an appointment for a FREE hearing assessment. Our comprehensive hearing assessment is made up of a number of examinations and can determine if there is a hearing impairment and if so, to what degree.

Our Audiologists are accredited to provide WorkCover services and can assist you with your WorkCover claim if your Noise-induced Hearing Loss was caused by your work environment. You may be eligible to claim compensation from WorkCover even if you claimed previously or have retired.

Click here to view all HearClear Audiology locations or call us on 1300 552 207 to make an appointment at any of our clinics.





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