Approximately 40 million US adults between the ages of 20-69 years have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).  Exposure to loud sounds can cause permanent damage to the inner ear structures and their hair cells, which are responsible for sending electrical signals to the brain. Once hair cells are damaged, they cannot regrow and are not replaceable, thus inhibiting the process of hearing. NIHL can be temporary or permanent in nature and can affect one or both ears. NIHL can develop suddenly or gradually and may worsen over time. High-frequency words that include consonants like “s,” “f,” and “th” are typically more difficult to hear for patients with NIHL. This pattern of hearing is detected by a hearing test, which would reveal a dip on the audiogram in the highest frequencies assessed. Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, may coincide with NIHL

There are many sounds that can cause NIHL, including gunshot blasts, loud music playing through ear phones or at concert venues, power tools, lawnmowers, and leaf blowers.  These noises can be either short impulse noise or continuous exposure to loud noise. Any sound above 85 decibels is considered damaging to hearing, although the degree of damage depends on the length and frequency of exposure. Hearing protection (i.e., earplugs, mufflers) should be used while in the presence of noise to prevent damage to the ears. Preventative measures to decrease the likelihood of developing NIHL include moving away from loud sounds, limiting exposure, and turning down the volume when able.

Contact Alexandria Hearing Centers at 703-922-4262 for more information on custom noise protection


Image retrieved from: Noise Exposure Limits and UK Workplace Noise Action Levels – ECL.