The causes of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
So what exactly causes hearing loss? Find out more here.
The causes of noise-induced hearning loss - NHIL
The two most common causes of hearing loss is age and exposure to loud noise. The former we can’t do much about. The latter we can.
As the NHS states, age is the biggest single cause of hearing loss. Problems associated with hearing and old age is known as age-related hearing loss, or sometimes presbycusis.
It is during our 30s and 40s that most people begin to lose a small amount of hearing. The loss increases the older we get and, by the time we get to 80, the majority of people have significant hearing loss.
So what exactly causes age-related hearing loss?
Our hearing deteriorates as the sensitive hair cells inside our cochlea slowly become damaged. It is common that as our hearing starts to deteriorate with age, we find it difficult to hear high-frequency sounds, such as a children and women speaking. As our hearing becomes worse, people can find it difficult to hear consonants being spoken. They also find understanding speech when background noise is present difficult.
Exposure to loud noise
It’s not just age that can lead to a deterioration of our hearing. Repeated exposure to loud noise over time or a sudden loud bang can also lead to permanent damage of our hearing.
This condition is known as ‘noise-induced hearing loss’. Noise-induced hearing loss also occurs when the sensitive hair cells in the cochlea become damaged.
As the NHS warns, individuals who are at particular risk from developing noise-induced hearing loss are:
. People who work with noisy equipment/machinery
“Noise at work can cause hearing damage that is permanent and disabling.”
As people who work with noisy equipment, such as compressed-air hammers and pneumatic drills, are putting their hearing at risk, the HSE advises health and safety managers on building sites or in factories to exchange louder equipment for quieter machines.
. People who work in loud environments
The NHS warns that people who work in loud environments such as entertainers and night club/concert venue personnel are also at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss.
. People who regularly listen to loud music through headphones or in their cars
Hearing loss can also be caused by people who regularly listen to music at high levels through headphones, cautions the NHS. This is true also for people who play very loud music in their cars.
Treating hearing loss
The method in which hearing loss is treated is dependent on the underlying cause of the condition. If the hearing loss involves sound being unable to pass into the inner ear, it is typically treated by ear drops to remove excessive wax from the ear.
Hearing loss can also be caused by a bacterial infection. In this case, antibiotics are usually prescribed to the sufferer. In severe cases, surgery can be performed to drain the fluid.
If the hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids are provided to help people hear more clearly. According to the NHS, approximately 1.4 million people regularly use hearing aids in the UK, and many more would benefit from them.
The microphone in a hearing aid picks up sound which is then made louder by an amplifier. Internal components in the device also help distinguish background noise, such as traffic, and foreground noise, such as speech.
Prevention better than cure
Of course the age-old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ can be applied to certain causes of hearing loss, such as noise-induced hearing loss.
The HSE in the UK offers comprehensive guidance on controlling noise in work-based situations.
In order to determine whether a working environment is exposing employees to potential hearing damage, health and safety managers will need to carry out regular noise assessments.
Noise monitoring equipment such as noise meters, sound level meters and noise dosemeters, enables such assessments to be carried out accurately.