This Parent Tip of the Week is brought to
you by Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center
Most of us enjoy the excitement of fireworks, parades and other holiday-related fun. However, loud noises such as booms and sirens can be damaging over time. Here are some facts about noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) and how to prevent it.
Facts About Noise
Although the definition of “noise” may be interpreted on a personal basis, it can be described simply as unwanted sound. Unwanted sound, or noise, can result in hearing loss, which is known as noise-induced hearing loss.
NIHL can be instantaneous and caused by just one single exposure to a very loud sound (like a firecracker or gunshot). NIHL also can be caused by cumulative exposure to loud sounds which gradually build over time to cause the hearing loss. So, even though hearing loss due to loud sound may not always be evident immediately, NIHL may be present later, in teenagers or adulthood. Any reduction in the overall lifetime noise “dose” will be good for hearing in later years.
- Noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss
- NIHL is permanent — but preventable
- Continuous exposure to noise can lead to physiological changes in blood pressure, sleep, digestion and other stress-related disorders
- NIHL typically occurs gradually and without pain
- Continued exposure to noise above 85 decibels will eventually harm one’s hearing
- In general, the louder the sound, the less time required before damage occurs
How Noise Affects Hearing
The cochlea is the organ of hearing. It is shaped like a snail and is approximately the size of a nickel. Inside the cochlea are thousands of tiny nerve endings called hair cells. These hair cells are surrounded by fluid. When you hear a sound, the sound vibrations cause the fluid to ripple through the cochlea and bend the hair cells, thereby activating the nerve endings. If the sounds are very loud, the vibrations, in turn, are very strong and cause the hair cells to not only bend, but to break. Once a hair cell is damaged in this fashion, it cannot be repaired, renewed or replaced.
Knowing When It’s Too Loud
As a general rule, if you must raise the volume of your voice above the noise level to carry on a conversation, the noise is too loud.
- If someone is arms reach away and can hear your music, it is too loud
- In noisy places, if you have to raise your voice to be heard, it is too loud
- Sound that causes ringing in the ears or a temporary reduction in hearing is too loud
Noise and Hearing Conservation
- According to the National Center of Disease Statistics, 5.2 million children between the ages of 6-19 years have hearing loss directly related to noise exposure.
- The Occupation Safety and Health Administration estimates that nearly 5 million Americans work in levels of noise that are potentially harmful to their hearing.
NIHL is 100% preventable.
To conserve what you have, some easy tips:
- Limit time of exposure
- Limit overall loudness
- Use noise canceling earphones
- Look for loudness limiting parental controls in devices
- Limit noisy toys or remove the batteries
- Use earplugs or muffs when operating a lawnmower, snow blower or leaf blower
- ALWAYS use hearing protection when hunting or shooting
What should you do if you suspect a NIHL? The audiologists at Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center can assess your hearing to determine if a loss is present and make recommendations regarding hearing protection and conservation including customized noise earplugs. To schedule an appointment with an audiologist, please call 216-231-8787.