Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, and one of the most common occupational illnesses in the United States. A single shotgun blast, experienced at close range, may permanently damage hearing instantaneously. Repeated exposures to loud machinery may, over many months and years, present serious risks to hearing. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), ten million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise, and thirty million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.
Noise induced hearing loss develops gradually so that people may lose a significant amount of hearing before becoming aware of its presence.What most people do not realize is that the noise does not need to be painful in order to cause permanent damage. During the early stages, sufferers often report having to turn up the volume on the TV or have difficulty understanding speech in groups or in the presence of background noise. As the hearing loss worsens, it becomes difficult to understand normal conversation even in quiet, one-on-one situations. The individual may not be aware of the high frequency hearing loss caused by noise exposure, but it can be detected with a hearing test. In fact, early identification is important in order to recognize the presence of hearing loss and then take steps to prevent further hearing loss.
Some of the warning signs of the presence of or exposure to hazardous noise are as follows:
- You can’t hear someone three feet away
- You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area
- You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise
- You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking, but you cannot understand them.