Turn Down the Volume: Noise-Induced Hearing LossAudiology by Accent
An epidemic is on the rise in the U.S. It is not the flu or any other infectious disease that you may be envisioning as you read this sentence. It affects both young and old alike, but is targeting younger populations and leaving permanent effects in its wake.
Your environment is filled with a constant variety of sounds, some noticeably loud and others so faint that you remain unaware of their presence. Normally, most of these sounds are harmless. However, exposure to loud sounds, even for brief periods, can cause damage to the ears. Sustained exposure is even more detrimental and often results in noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL.
The American Academy of Audiology reports that NIHL is affecting children at an alarming rate. Everything from iPods and sporting events to fitness classes and concerts carries the risk of causing NIHL. Most people don’t even realize that they are suffering from hearing loss.
Stereocilia, tiny hair-like structures in the ear that are responsible for transmitting sounds to the brain via auditory nerves, can easily be damaged by loud sounds. Prolonged exposure actually kills stereocilia. This painless process is dangerous because you don’t even realize the damage that is being done until it’s too late.
Beyond a lack of auditory acuity, NIHL has far-reaching consequences, including social isolation, increased incidences of depression, elevated stress levels, compromised job performance, heightened risk of injury and possible links to dementia.
The most common symptom of NIHL is tinnitus, a ringing or whooshing sound in the ears that never goes away. Symptoms are progressive and permanent, however, they are preventable.
Behavioral changes are the best means of preventing hearing loss. Lower the volume on your headphones and radio and wear earplugs if you’re going to be around loud sounds for any length of time.