Protect Your Hearing — October is National Protect Your Hearing Month, an annual event that raises awareness about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), including its causes and prevention.
Exposure to loud sounds, either for a long time or a short burst, can cause NIHL, affecting anyone, regardless of age or gender. Hearing loss of this kind can be permanent or temporary. Like other types of hearing loss, NIHL can impact one’s quality of life, communication, social interactions, and mental health.
There is no cure for NIHL, so it’s important to protect your hearing. Once the hair cells that grow in your inner ear are damaged, they cannot grow back or be repaired. Prevention includes avoiding or reducing exposure to loud sounds and utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE), like earplugs or earmuffs.
Some symptoms of NIHL include:
- Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds (doorbells, phones, alarm clocks, etc.)
- Difficulty understanding conversations in noisy places
- Ringing, buzzing, or hissing in your ears after exposure to noise
- Muffled or distorted sounds
If you experience any of these signs, you should get your hearing checked by a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Early identification and intervention for hearing loss can help prevent further damage and improve your hearing health.
Here are some scientific studies on the topic of NIHL:
- A study published in 2023 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) reported that approximately 23 million Americans aged 20 and older suffer from NIHL.
- A report from the CDC and NIDCD in 2017 suggested that at least 10 million (6 percent) of adults in the U.S. under age 70 -and perhaps as many as 40 million adults (24 percent)- may have NIHL. This is based on evidence of noise notches in their hearing test results.
- A study published in 2011 by the Journal of Pediatrics estimated that as many as 17 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have features of their hearing test suggestive of NIHL in one or both ears, based on data from 2005-2006.
Hearing loss could have a direct impact on a person’s quality of life, so it’s best to protect your hearing. Remember, hearing loss from noise is preventable. Lower the volume, move away from the noise, and wear hearing protectors. Your ears will thank you! Stay safe out there!
Want to learn even more about protecting your hearing? Dig deeper on OSHA‘s Hearing Conservation page.
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