Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Hearing loss caused by noise can occur in people of any age. It may develop suddenly or gradually, depending on the source and intensity of the noise. Noise can affect hearing in several ways.
How loud a noise is and how long you are around it determine whether a noise is harmful. On-the-job (occupational) noise is one of the most common sources of harmful noise, largely because you are around it all day for years. For instance, if you work in construction, in a factory, or are in the military, you may be around harmful noise for several hours each day.
The sounds of recreation and daily activities over many years can also damage the ear and cause hearing loss. These include:
You can reduce harmful noise levels and prevent noise-induced damage to your hearing by avoiding noisy situations whenever you can. When you can't avoid noisy situations, wear hearing protectors such as earplugs or earmuffs.
Noise-induced hearing loss is usually permanent and cannot be reversed. Hearing aids, which make sounds louder, are often helpful for this type of hearing loss.
How does noise-induced hearing loss develop?
To be heard, sound energy has to be strong enough to bend tiny hair cells in the cochlea, a part of the inner ear. The force of loud noise can damage these hair cells. A small amount of damage may have no effect on hearing. But with repeated exposure to noise, more of the hair cells are damaged, resulting in hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss usually affects both ears. But one ear may be affected more than the other if you have had repeated, long-term exposure to a loud sound that is always coming from the same direction, such as gunfire that is always near the same ear.
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