Noise-Induced Hearing Loss - What Is It?

According to statistics from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), noise-induced hearing loss is among the most common causes of hearing loss. While the exact number isn’t known, it’s projected to be as high as 1 in 3 US adults.

This cause of hearing loss is also preventable if you take the proper steps.

This week we’ll be diving into the causes behind noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), protection, treatment options and more.

What Causes Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). 

Unlike conductive hearing loss which is caused by some sort of obstruction, SNHL is the result of damage done directly to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. These hair cells are what translate the sound vibrations in the air into electrical signals that pass to the brain. When exposed to noises that register over 80dB or higher for a prolonged period of time, these hair cells are destroyed and do not grow back.

Some common places that can cause NIHL include rock concerts, construction sites, heavy machinery, and firearms. Loud music at clubs, bars, or restaurants also puts people at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.

Depending on how loud and how frequent the exposure is, the amount of time it takes to do damage to your hearing can vary. For more information on how decibel levels are measured, check out our blog post, Loud Noises: How Much Does it Take to Cause Hearing Loss?

Is NIHL reversible?

Unfortunately, as of this writing, noise-induced hearing loss is like most kinds of sensorineural hearing loss and is not reversible. 

It’s not all bad news though.

While it isn’t reversible, that doesn’t mean that there are no options to make your quality of life better as well as protect your hearing from further loss.

Protecting Yourself from Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

If you work in an environment where you hear loud noises regularly, such as a factory, bar, or another loud place, you should take extra precautions to protect your ears. You should always wear protective earplugs or earmuffs/headphones whenever possible. 

There are specific kinds you should look for that are rated for reducing loud noises. These will be labeled with a number referred to as a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). The NRR rating will describe exactly how much the decibel level will drop up to a maximum of 33dB. For instance, if a factory floor is 90dB, wearing properly rated hearing protection will drop the decibel level into the 70s which is well below the threshold for damage.

When at home, you should avoid listening to loud music or having the television turned up too loud. For listening to music, consider investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones so that it is easier to reduce background noise. As for television or movies, headphones can also help and this writer has found subtitles can help catch softer lines of dialogue.

All in all, the best way to protect yourself from exposure to loud noises is to limit the number of hours you spend in noisy environments and wear protection if it is unavoidable.

Treating NIHL 

The treatment for noise-induced hearing loss is no different than other types of sensorineural hearing loss. 

If you think you have any kind of hearing loss, you should schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional and get your hearing tested. 

This will give you a baseline to work with as you work through the other steps listed above. As an added bonus, even if you don’t have hearing loss, this can give you a baseline in case your hearing degrades in the future from aging or other causes.

To find a hearing care professional in your area, check out to see if one of our Vibe partners is in your area.


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