There are different types of hearing loss, some types are caused by age – when the tiny hairs of the ear die off; other types are caused by blockages in the ear such as wax or foreign objects. But if you are exposed to loud noise in your immediate environment or over a prolonged period you might experience noise-induced hearing loss. In this article, you will learn about what NIHL is, who it mainly affects, and how the mechanism for how loud noise affects the inner ear and irreparable damages the tiny cilia. If you think you might be vulnerable to NIHL you need to contact your audiologist.

What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)?

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a type of hearing loss resulting from sound in the local environment that damages the sensitive hairs and structures in the inner ear. These sounds tend to be over 80 decibels which includes heavy traffic, power tools and loud concerts. NIHL takes many different forms, it can be temporary or permanent, noticeable or very minor – it can also affect one ear or both your ears. Sometimes people don’t realize their hearing is affected by sounds in their environments which can lead to more extreme hearing loss in the future.

Who Is Affected By NIHL?

NIHL can affect any individual who is exposed to harmful levels of noise in their workplace or living environment. According to a CDC study from 2011-2012 NIHL affects 10 million adults in the US, about six percent. But the true number of affected individuals under the age of 70 is around 40 million or 24%. These figures account for people who have lost their hearing due to loud noises in their environments, this is NIHL. If you live or work in a place that has a background noise on or above 80 decibels, you may be at risk of NIHL.

What Causes NIHL?

NIHL is typically caused in two ways, either by a one-off sound close to the ear above 80 decibels or prolonged exposure to loud noise in a living environment or workplace. Recreational activities can also cause the condition such as shooting and listening to loud music. The ear is a complex system of tiny bones and hairs. NIHL happens when high levels of sound intensity are transmitted through the auditory system and the tympanic membrane. Eventually, the sound reaches these high sound levels, killing off the delicate hairs and making hearing much harder. NIHL is a type of hearing loss that is caused by loud sounds in the immediate environments or sounds above 80 decibels that occur across over a longer period. NIHL can affect people of any age although it is more common in older age groups. NIHL happens when the noise coming in through the ear and passing through the eardrum is excessive and it kills off the tiny hairs responsible for delivering sound to the inner ear. These tiny hairs are delicate, and they don’t grow back leading to long term hearing loss.