Noise induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. Exposure to harmful noise—sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time—can damage the sensitive structures in our inner ear, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). These sensitive structures, called hair cells, are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back .
Noise induced hearing losses tend to affect the higher frequencies of hearing first. Initially, the hearing impairment may cause difficulty understanding people when there are competing sounds around them, such as in group situations or in a restaurant. People vary in how sensitive they are to loud sounds, and often, once damage has occurred, they become more sensitive.
In order to conserve our hearing, it is essential to take steps to avoid situations where loud noises tend to occur and/or protect our hearing if exposure cannot be avoided. Some common sources of excessive, potentially hearing-damaging noises are:
- Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed trimmers, other power tools
- Loud music; particularly the use of headphones combined with loud music, playing loud instruments, or attending rock concerts and clubs
- Recreational gunfire
A sound may be harmful if:
- You have difficulty talking or hearing others talk over the sound.
- The sound makes your ears hurt.
- Your ears are ringing after hearing the sound.
- Other sounds seem muffled after you leave an area where there is loud sound.
Learn more about Harmful noise sources