Excessive noise exposure damages the delicate hair cells in the inner ear, not dissimilar to the effect of age on the ear (accelerated “wear and tear”). This damage often results in permanent, sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing of the ears). Hazardous noise exposures can occur on the job, but also in common recreational activities. Hearing loss prevention thus requires diligence and sensitivity to situations where hearing can be put at risk:
- Beware of recreational sources of hazardous noise like firearms, firecrackers, power tools, music concerts, dance clubs, NASCAR, sporting events, motorcycles, motorboats, snowmobiles, powerboats, and “boom cars”. See our noise thermometer which shows you the relative risk associated with exposure to various noise environments.
- The risk for hearing loss due to exposure to noise is especially high among factory and heavy industry workers, transportation workers, military personnel, construction workers, miners, farmers, firefighters, police officers, musicians, and entertainment industry professionals.
If you have to raise your voice to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within an arm’s length away, that noise could be a serious risk to your hearing. You can prevent hearing loss by removing yourself from situations where noise is excessive or by using ear plugs to protect your ears.
Be alert to some of these warning signs, which could suggest that you’ve been exposed to hazardous noise:
- You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears after exposure to noise.
- You notice that you can hear people talking, but you have difficulty understanding them, after exposure to noise.
- You experience “fullness” in your ears after leaving a noisy area.
Remember, even though you might have experienced these symptoms temporarily in the past, your hearing might not always “recover,” leaving you with a permanent and regrettable hearing problem.