Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)

What is noise-induced hearing loss? What are the causes? And how do you treat a noise-induced hearing loss?

What is noise-induced hearing loss /NIHL?

A noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent hearing loss caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of noise.  The hearing deteriorates gradually from the noise exposure.

A noise-induced hearing loss is also called NIHL.

Excessive noise exposure is one of the most common causes of hearing loss

When you have a noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), the hair cells in your inner ear have been damaged by the exposure to noise. The hair cells’ ability to pick-up and transmit sound to the brain is therefore reduced. A noise-induced hearing loss is therefore a type of sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss

A noise-induced hearing loss can in some cases occur suddenly (a sudden hearing loss) after exposure to very loud noise such as an explosion or other loud noises. In these cases, you often very clearly notice that you have lost some of your hearing. If you experience a sudden hearing loss you should contact a doctor or an ENT as soon as possible.

In most cases, a noise-induced hearing loss develops gradually as a result of long-lasting exposure to noise. This can be work-noise or noise from leisure activities. When a noise-induced hearing loss develops gradually, it is harder to perceive. The noise induced hearing loss symptoms and signs, like many other types of hearing loss, are for example:

  • Trouble hearing what other people are saying, like people are mumbling,
  • Problems hearing children and women’s voices
  • Problems hearing at meetings and social gatherings
  • Problems hearing in background noise, like in a restaurant

If people are saying that your TV is turned up to loud or say that you speak too loudly, this can also be a sign of a noise-induced hearing loss.

A noise-induced hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus – a ringing, whooshing, roaring or buzzing sounds in your ears, also more commonly known as ringing ears.

Some with a noise-induced hearing loss may also experience pain in their ears when exposed to noise.

What causes noise-induced hearing loss/NIHL?

Noise induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to excessively loud noise for longer periods e.g. in the workplace or listening to loud music at concerts or on your smart phone or it may be caused by acute, high intensity noise such as gunshots, air horns or fireworks.

Get your hearing checked

If you think that you might have a noise-induced hearing loss, we recommend that you get your hearing checked by a hearing professional.

Prevention of noise-induced hearing loss

You can prevent a noise induced hearing loss/NIHL by turning down the volume, reducing the time you are exposed to the loud noise and/or using hearing protection.

Cure for noise-induced hearing loss

Many ask: Can hearing damage and noise induced hearing loss be reversed or is there a cure for noise-induced hearing loss? Unfortunately not. Once the hair cells in the inner ear have been damaged by noise exposure, they have suffered permanent damage and cannot be restored. But noise-induced hearing loss can be treated.

Treatment of noise-Induced hearing loss

How do you treat noise induced hearing loss/NIHL? Normally, noise induced hearing loss is treated with the use of hearing aids.

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