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Simple Treatment Can Minimize Hearing Loss Triggered By Loud Noises

Today most of us live in a noisy environment, surrounded almost constantly by a barrage of noises, ranging from seemingly harmless TV shows or radio tunes to clearly ear-offending noises like construction sounds and traffic noise.

In many cases, some sounds are not too bad for us because the volume is reasonable and within safe levels. But when they’re excessively loud, even for a short period of time, they can quickly become harmful. Repeated exposure to some of these noises can eventually affect your hearing and can damage the delicate inner ear structures to the point of causing some degree of hearing loss. Sometimes this is called “noise-induced hearing loss” or NIHL. One type of NIHL is known as tinnitus.

Causes of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Your exposure to excessive noise can be from a single source, like an explosion. You may also be exposed continuously, such as someone who works in an auto body shop or a woodworking shop.

Even activities you take part in recreationally can be considered risky without proper protection, such as hunting, target shooting, riding a snowmobile or going to rock concerts. And don’t forget the potential risks around the house, like the lawnmower, the leaf blower, and using headphones with the volume too high while listening to video games or music.

Who’s At Risk for Hearing Loss from Loud Noise?

As you might imagine, some careers lend themselves to be more risky for hearing loss than others. Think about people whose career places them in or around loud noises. People like EMTs and ambulance drivers, carpenters and other construction workers, musicians, and anyone who is exposed to decibel levels of 85 or higher, either repeatedly or constantly, are definitely in a high-risk group.

How Do Loud Noises Cause Hearing Loss?

There are hair cells within the ear that are sensitive to sound waves, detecting them and converting them to neural signals. When exposed to a very loud noise, these sensory hair cells die, and excessive fluid fills the inner ear, causing the neurons to die as well.

Hearing cannot take place without the hair cells and the neurons both functioning properly. Even if sensory hair cells are left, and are still working, unless they’re connected to a neuron, the brain can’t hear a sound.

After exposure to one or more loud noises, the damage may be noticeable immediately or it could take a very long time. You may find you have trouble hearing in the future and don’t understand why, not connecting it to a loud explosion you heard months ago or a series of loud music concerts you attended in college.

What Can Be Done About Hearing Loss from Loud Noises?

Of course the best treatment for hearing loss is preventing it from occurring in the first place. Avoid those situations that expose you to dangerously high decibel level noise. Or, when it can’t be avoided, wear protection on your ears to protect those sensitive structures inside.

One possibility for treatment lies in the discovery that after exposure to a loud noise, the fluid buildup in the ear contains high levels of potassium. In an effort to find ways to offset the cell death caused by those high concentrations, researchers injected sugar and salt based solutions through the eardrum within three hours of exposure to the loud noise.

The solutions preserved between 45% and 64% of neurons from dying. Researchers are hopeful this treatment may be one simple way to help preserve hearing following loud noise exposure.

Another possible treatment, when the window of opportunity for the solutions has passed, is to consider a hearing aid device. Technology has come a very long way, and the hearing aids of today are nothing like they used to be.

They can be virtually undetectable, and many patients are delighted to learn their hearing can be partially, if not completely, treatable with the proper use of a hearing aid device.

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