Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent hearing impairment as a result of being exposed to high levels of noise. This type of hearing loss can happen right away or slowly over a period of years.

Loud noises can damage the hair cells in the inner ear and the hearing nerve. This is called sensorineural hearing loss or nerve deafness, and once the hearing nerve is damaged, the hearing loss is permanent and cannot be reversed.

On the other hand, noise-induced hearing loss is the only form of hearing loss that is completely preventable—by avoiding loud noise and wearing ear protection if you are exposed to it.

Noise is described by its decibel level (a decibel is the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound). The higher the decibels, the louder the sound. Normal conversation is usually about 60 decibels. Regularly being around noise that’s more than 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. For example:

Which noises can affect hearing?

Level of safety

Decibels (Approximate)

Type of noise

Permanent hearing loss may happen

140-150

Fireworks within 3 feet, guns, jet engine

 

120-130

Jet plane, siren, jackhammer

 

110

Personal music player set at loudest level, chain saw, radio-controlled airplane

Gradual hearing loss may happen over time

90

Subway, motorcycle

Safe 

80-90

Kitchen appliances

 

60

Normal conversation

 

30

Whispering

Cooper University Health Care’s Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery has a team of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists and audiologists who provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art care for noise-induced hearing loss for adults and children.

Risk Factors for Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Any exposure to excessively loud noise is a risk factor for noise-induced hearing loss. Some of these types of exposure include:

  • A one-time exposure to an intense explosion
  • Occupational exposure over an extended period of time, such as working in a machine shop or factory (today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, mandates that employees in certain jobs must wear hearing protection when exposed to noise over 85 decibels)
  • Recreational activities such as target shooting, hunting, snowmobile riding, attending loud concerts, or playing in a band
  • Noise around the house, such as from lawnmowers, leaf blowers, or woodworking tools

Symptoms of Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Having trouble hearing is the main symptom of noise-induced hearing loss. You may experience the following:

  • Trouble hearing soft or faint sounds
  • Normal conversation may sound muffled or unclear
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus) [LINK to Tinnitus page]
  • Children may become inattentive or fall behind in school due to hearing loss

Regularly being around loud noise can also cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability and increased tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping

How Noise-induced Hearing Loss Is Diagnosed

You or your child will be referred to a specialist for hearing testing. Hearing testing is usually done by an audiologist or an otolaryngologist (ENT), a doctor who specializes in treating problems with the ears, nose, and throat. Testing may include:

  • Tuning fork tests: A tuning fork is a two-pronged, metal instrument that produces a sound when it’s struck. Tests with tuning forks can help your doctor detect hearing loss and may also reveal what’s causing your hearing loss (damage to the vibrating parts of your middle ear, including your eardrum, or damage to nerves of your inner ear, or both).
  • Audiometer testing: This is more advanced testing by an audiologist during which you wear earphones while sounds of various tones and at different levels are directed to one ear at a time. The audiologist will also present various words to determine your hearing ability.

How Noise-induced Hearing Loss Is Treated

Treatment for noise-induced hearing loss may include:

  • Hearing aids: A hearing aid can help by amplifying sounds so they’re easier to hear. An audiologist can explain the benefits of a hearing aid, recommend a device, and fit you with it.
  • Cochlear implants: If you or your child has severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant may be an option. A cochlear implant works by compensating for damaged or nonworking parts of the inner ear. A Cooper ENT specialist can explain the risks and benefits of cochlear implants to you.
  • Prevention: To protect yourself or your child from further hearing loss, stay away from loud noise, and use ear plugs, earmuffs or noise-cancelling headphones when loud noise can’t be avoided. In addition, talk to your doctor or your child’s doctor about:
  • Medicines that may cause further hearing damage
  • Activities such as scuba diving that may cause further damage

Why Choose Us to Treat Noise-induced Hearing Loss

As the only tertiary-care, academic medical center in South Jersey, Cooper University Health Care’s Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery is home to a team of fellowship-trained otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialists) as well as experienced audiologists (professionals who diagnose and treat hearing and balance problems).

Together, they provide an unrivalled level of comprehensive medical and surgical care for noise-induced hearing loss in both children and adults.

Contact Us

To learn more about the services available in the Division of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery or to schedule an appointment, please call 856.342.3113