Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) What Teenagers Need to Know!

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Excessive Noise is a leading cause of hearing loss, especially among young people [1].

Why does excessive noise cause hearing loss?

The noise causes damage to the hair cells of the inner ear and is the largest single form of hearing loss.2 NIHL is totally preventable, but once you have hearing loss, you’ll have it for life.

NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to loud sound as well as by repeated exposure to sounds at various loudness levels over an extended period of time.

We hear over various frequencies, NIHL will impact the higher frequencies first, resulting in difficulty with background noise, however, the loss will gradually progress into the lower speech frequencies, and once it has affected those, you will have problems understanding speech, and it will progress to a severe level in the high frequencies.

What kind of noise is too loud?

If you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is only an arms length away, chances are it is too loud. Sound is measured in decibels (dB), Prolonged exposure to noise over 85dB can cause hearing loss. Regular exposure to noise over 110dB or more for more than 1 minute can cause permanent hearing loss. Immediate ear damage will be caused by exposure to 150dB plus. For every 5dB increase in noise, the max exposure time is cut in half.

Examples of Excessive Noise: Max Time Allowed without earplugs [2,3]
Event Decibel Level Time
Rock Concert 120dB 7.5 minutes
Stereo Headphones 110dB 30 minutes
Lawn Mower 90dB 8 hours
Snowmobile 115dB 15 minutes
Guns 120dB + 7.5 minutes
Boom Box 110dB 30 minutes

Can NIHL be prevented?

NIHL is preventable. You need to understand the hazards of noise and how to avoid it and protect your ears.

  • Know which noises can cause damage (those above 90 decibels).
  • Wear earplugs or other hearing protective devices when involved in a loud activity (special earplugs and earmuffs are available at hardware stores and sporting good stores).
  • Be alert to hazardous noise in the environment.
  • Tell your friends and family about this!

References:

1. Deaf and Hard Of Hearing Services, Minnesota Department of Human Services

2. Noise Induced hearing loss, Sight and Hearing Association.

3. Wise Ears at Work ; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control.

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