Most people think of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurring only when their job or environment is filled with constant noise.
They think that you will only get this type of hearing loss if you work in noisy jobs like construction, mining, or some kind of industrial setting. While this is definitely true, you can have NIHL from even the slightest noisy environments.
In my experience, I have encountered a variety of people who have this type of hearing loss, that come from many different worlds. From people who work in offices, to parents that stay at home with their somewhat noisy children! Also NIHL can occur and show symptoms, at ANY age. The important thing to understand, is that we start to lose our hearing at birth, and NIHL is accumulative over your whole life. So a job at a construction site in your teens to a loud concert or two (or more), to occasional weekend shooting practices, all add up and are very permanent.
The other thing about NIHL, is that damage can occur, depending on the noise level, in LESS THAN 8 SECONDS! Yes, 8 seconds of loud noise can start to permanently damage your hearing.
The tricky thing is that the damage from noise usually occurs in our higher frequencies (pitches) first, where our speech clarity happens, and not in the lower frequencies where most of our perception of volume is at. So, what that means, is that most people erroneously think that because they can hear a pin drop, that their hearing is fine.
When we start to lose our higher pitches (clarity), the issues we have include, knowing people are talking to us but not understanding everything they said, and also having difficulty understanding people speaking when in noisy environments like restaurants. This is NOT normal. This indicates that there is some high frequency hearing loss occurring, that is not allowing you to discern softer speech. This is most often presented simultaneously with tinnitus or ringing in your ears as well.
Most people live with this, thinking it is normal, however, they don’t have to. New technology has proven to help NIHL and tinnitus tremendously, especially if treated early, when hearing devices can supplement your residual hearing (where your hearing is at now), achieving sound clarity very close to normal for you again.
This is where your Audiologist can help. It is very important to come in for a complimentary hearing screening to have a baseline recorded, even if you are not sure of the severity of your hearing loss. Doctors of Audiology are clinically trained to not only recognize your symptoms and measure the severity, but more importantly, give you relief as well as bring you back into the world of understanding.
Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Dr. Renee Hadad Cichon. Dr Cichon is a Doctor of Audiology with HearAid Audiology Clinic, HearAid, LLC and may be reached at 888-625-0655 or by email at HearAidLLC@hotmail.net