Whether you are attending a local fireworks celebration, summer concert or you are at the race track, the summer months are filled with outside activities that include loud noises. Did you know these noises could potentially lead to hearing damage and even permanent hearing loss? Adena Audiologist Rachel Maynard explains how you can protect your ears and avoid noise-induced hearing loss.
What is noise-induced hearing loss?
Noise-induced hearing loss is exactly what it sounds like. It is hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises. This can also include prolonged exposure to lower-level loud sounds, such as a factory noise, where a worker is exposed routinely over a period of time; or a single instance of exposure to a very loud noise, such as a firecracker or gunshot.
“This type of hearing loss generally has a distinctive pattern in the high pitch range of hearing, which helps us to identify noise exposure as the cause,” explained Maynard.
Maynard has seen multiple patients with permanent hearing loss caused by a single exposure to guns or fireworks. However, hearing loss caused by factory machinery is the most common type of hearing loss she sees in her Chillicothe office.
“Many of the other causes like concerts, lawn mowers or construction tend to be things that do not cause hearing loss all at once, but more likely occur when someone has had multiple instances — or years’ worth of this exposure,” she said.
Signs and symptoms
The main symptom of noise-induced hearing loss is trouble hearing voices or sounds at a normal level. You may suspect noise-induced hearing loss if you have any of the following:
- Trouble hearing soft or faint sounds;
- Normal conversation may sound muffled or unclear; and/or
- Ringing or buzzing in the ears.
Maynard added, “Typically, people will complain that voices are muffled, or it seems as if everyone is mumbling. Patients may also notice that they do not understand speech as well when there are background noises present in the environment, or if the person speaking is not facing them.”
When to seek medical treatment
A person should seek medical attention any time he or she has concerns about their hearing, or if they experience ringing in the ears. It is critical for a person who notices a sudden change in hearing to be medically evaluated as soon as possible.
Maynard suggests starting with an evaluation by your primary care provider. They can check for any physical causes and can then refer you to an audiology specialist if needed. The audiologist will complete a formal hearing test, will analyze your results and discuss treatment options that may be necessary.
According to Maynard, hearing aids are the most often recommended option to help patients regain their hearing. Other options may be available depending on the condition of the ear drum or how long ago the incident occurred. This is why it is so important that a patient be evaluated as soon as possible.
Remember, it only takes one exposure to a sound to cause permanent damage.
“Consistency is key,” said Maynard. “A general rule of thumb is that if a noise is loud enough that you have to shout to be heard over it, hearing protection should be used.”
There are many hearing protection devices available, from small in-the-ear devices to larger earmuff products.
Maynard recommends wearing hearing protection when:
- Attending music concerts
- Riding a motorcycle
- Operating factory machinery
- Shooting guns
- Setting off fireworks
- Working construction
- Using a chain saw or other power tools
- Watching truck pulls at fairs
- Going to the race track(From: Chillicothe Gazette)