Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Explained

Exposure to noise may not appear to be a significant threat, but it can have a significant impact on your hearing. There are permanent and temporary forms of hearing loss that are caused by exposure to noise, which may occur in one or both ears. Understanding how to protect yourself from exposure to noise is key to preventing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and protecting your hearing health.

Loud and/or Long-Lasting

Approximately 15% of American adults aged 20-69 have noise-related hearing loss. Noise can sometimes cause something called a temporary threshold shift. This is a reversible form of hearing loss that is most commonly caused by loud sounds like an explosion or gunshots. It may also be the result of tinnitus.

However, when sounds are too loud (even if only for a brief period of time), too long-lasting or too close, permanent damage to your inner ear and result in NIHL.

How Noise Can Damage Your Hearing

Hearing works by our ears transforming sound waves into electrical signals that are travel along the auditory nerve which are then interpreted by the brain. Tiny hair cells on top of the ear’s basilar membrane are a key component of this process. Most cases of NIHL are the result of damage to these hair cells, that do not grow back.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss at Work

Exposure to sounds over a prolonged period, such as the sounds in a factory, can cause NIHL. Long or repeated exposure to sounds over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If you suspect that you may require hearing protection at work, here are some common sounds and their corresponding volume. Further guidelines are available from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration:

  • Refrigerator hum = 45 decibels
  • City traffic = 85 decibels
  • Lawnmower, power tools = 90 decibels
  • Chainsaw, pneumatic drill = 100 decibels
  • Sirens = 120 decibels
  • Firecrackers, firearms, jet engine = 150 decibels

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss at Play

Hobbies and recreational activities can also potentially pose a risk. Shooting, hunting or snowmobiling are common hobbies that can cause NIHL due to prolonged / sudden exposure to loud noise. Here are some other common everyday occurrences:

  • Conversation, sewing machine = 60 decibels
  • Motorcycle = 95 decibels
  • Snowmobile = 100 decibels
  • Headphone music at max volume = 105 decibels

Trust the Experts at Audionics NYC

Hearing loss can develop over a number of years, but its gradual progression can make it harder to recognize. If you suspect that your hearing may have changed recently, we recommend booking in a hearing assessment with the hearing care professionals at Audionics. If you would like to book in a complimentary assessment, contact us today and schedule an appointment at our Manhattan hearing clinic location in the historic DuMont Building right on 53rd Street & Madison Avenue.