We call it acoustic trauma or noise-induced hearing loss. By any name, itâ€™s the most important preventable cause of permanent hearing loss. Up to 28 million Americans have impaired hearing.
Acoustic trauma is a product of modern life. On the job noise exposure is the most common cause, but recreational noiseâ€”such as loud music is catching up.
A soundâ€™s potential to damage the ear depends on the duration as well as the intensity of the sound.
Most often, noise-induced hearing loss begins with a subtle difficulty hearing high-frequency tones, then slowly begins to encompass lower tones. Usually, both ears are equally involved. Once your hearing is lost, it canâ€™t be restored; your only recourse is to wear a hearing aid. Thatâ€™s why it is important to recognize the warning signs. If your ears ring or buzz after being exposed to noise, itâ€™s loud enough to cause damage. And if noise exposure makes hearing painful, muffled, blurry, or distant for hours or days, you are already in trouble.
Some sound advice: First and foremost, turn down the volume. For occasional exposures, use disposable ear plugs. If youâ€™re frequently at risk, invest in custom-fitted ear plugs. And for maximum protection, add acoustic earmuffs.