Approximately 17 million individuals suffer from sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve deafness, as a result of over exposure to noise. Hearing damaged by noise is permanently lost and cannot be repaired. Fortunately, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be prevented.
"Increasing amounts of noise exposure from fireworks, rock concerts, personal CD players and motorcycle engines are leading factors in increased hearing loss," explains Academy President Angela Loavenbruck, Ed.D. "It's shocking, but noise seems to be the main reason that Americans are losing their hearing at a younger age."
NIHL is caused by sounds of sufficient intensity and duration they damage the ear and result in temporary or permanent hearing loss. NIHL may be the result of a single loud noise - like a firecracker or a gunshot - or from consistent noise levels over a period of time - like listening to loud music through headphones or working with noisy machinery.
NIHL can be permanent or a temporary loss, such as when ears "ring" after a loud concert. Often associated as a part of growing old, much of NIHL happens gradually over time; however, mild hearing loss as a child or young adult may set the state for significant premature hearing loss.
As more than 37 million baby boomers march steadily toward retirement age, audiologists are preparing for an increase in the number of Americans with hearing loss. Embarrassment about hearing loss prevents close to 15 million people from seeking help. "So many Americans struggle with their hearing loss that they lose productivity at work, create stress in relationships with family and friends and leave their hearing loss untreated, creating lost productivity levels as high as $56 billion," Loavenbruck said.
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. Here's how:
- Know which noises can cause damage.
- Avoid loud situations and reduce your exposure to noise.
- When you know you will be exposed to noise, wear earplugs.
- Protect children, especially those who are too young to protect themselves.
- Make family and friends aware of the hazards of noise.
- Have your hearing checked by an audiologist.
To learn about noise levels and hearing protection, visit www.audiology.org/professional/tech/nhprotection.php .