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Wear Your Ear Protection.....Sound Advice from the Department of Audiology, Mass. Eye and Ear

Did you know that a significant portion of the hearing loss we attribute to aging may result from a lifetime of exposure to high-level sound?

For example, the average 25-year-old carpenter has hearing similar to that of a 50-year-old person who has not been exposed to loud noise. With another 30 years of noise exposure, the average 55-year-old carpenter has a hearing loss that significantly impairs the ability to hear and understand speech. The following is a list of noise-induced hearing loss facts. Learn how easy it is to avoid this type of hearing loss.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Facts

  • Repeated exposure to loud sound during work and recreational activities is one of the most common causes of permanent, sensorineural hearing loss.
  • According to experts at the National Institutes of Health, as many as 10 million persons in the United States have a permanent hearing loss resulting from exposure to noise and 30 million more are exposed to dangerous sound levels each day (NIDCD, 1998).
  • Loud sounds can cause hearing loss by damaging the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. In humans, these hair cells do not repair themselves; when they are critically damaged or lost from noise trauma, permanent hearing loss results.
  • Currently, there are no medical or surgical treatments that can repair the inner ear damage resulting from chronic noise exposure.
  • Noise exposure is a common cause of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
  • Noise exposure can cause temporary hearing changes. However, when the exposure is too loud, or too long, or repeated too frequently, permanent hearing changes often result.
  • A short, but very intense sound - an explosion, for example - may cause immediate and permanent hearing loss.
  • However, sounds intense enough to produce hearing loss do not have to cause pain. Usually, the hearing loss accumulates gradually after repeated exposures to loud noise….so gradually, in fact, that you may not even realize you are losing your hearing.
  • No one should have to pay the price of losing their hearing in order to earn a living. Yet, for many people, years of exposure to high levels of sound on the job leads to permanent hearing loss.
  • Government regulations control the amount of noise exposure workers are allowed to receive on the job. In spite of this, noise-induced hearing loss continues to be one of the most common occupational diseases. It has been identified as the second most common reason workers seek medical attention for work-related exposures (CDC/NIOSH).
  • Although many adults recognize that job-related noise exposures can be a risk to their hearing, they underestimate the hearing loss risk from exposures they receive around the home and in their recreational activities.
  • Most importantly, noise-induced hearing loss is entirely preventable

Avoid exposure altogether. Well-fitted earplugs, protective earmuffs can help protect your hearing when you are exposed to loud noise. And…..hearing protection doesn't work if you don't use it.

The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is a member of the 'WISE EARS! Coalition.' The WISE EARS! campaign was developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIDCD, NIOSH) to increase public awareness of the risks to hearing of exposure to loud noise. The coalition is comprised of organizations across the United States that are deeply committed to reducing needless damage to hearing from noise. You can find out more about WISE EARS! at the website.

Sources: NIDCD, CDC/NIOSH