Noise Induced Hearing Loss - A Growing Problem

Facts from the WHO

Last year the World Health Organization (WHO) released an alarming forecast, highlighting that close to 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss by 2050. Over 1 billion of these cases can be easily prevented and are related to unsafe listening practices. Unsafe listening practices and the associated health concerns are a recent phenomenon for humans, and it wasn’t until the last few centuries that we were able to produce dangerous sounds at a sustained duration, which is rare in nature. This has seen a sharp rise in hearing related issues and currently 1.5 billion people live with some degree of hearing loss. This number is set to jump, with the increase of more unsafe listening practices in recent decades, resulting in something we now refer medically to as Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) occurs due to exposure to noise above a certain intensity level (85 dBA or higher) for a sufficient duration of time. As previously highlighted the cause of NIHL is a relatively new consideration. There are few sources of noise that occur naturally that are intense enough to cause NIHL, but humans have now developed many! NIHL occurs through damage to the cochlear and the hair cell structures around it, which can repair naturally if not constantly exposed to dangerous noise. So NIHL can occur and then be repaired, but the problem arises when people keep exposing themselves to loud noise and continue to practice unsafe listening practices. Studies show that as much as 58% of classical musicians and 74% of pop and rock musicians suffer from some level of NIHL. Generally, NIHL occurs very gradually over many years. It occurs so gradually that it may go unnoticed until there are significant and irreversible damage.

Although NIHL is very common amongst musicians it can occur to anyone who is exposed to dangerous noise, and many people are uneducated about what dangerous noise is so they keep exposing themselves to it. Music exposure (concerts, clubs and headphones), sporting events and professions with dangerous noise (construction, trades and bar work), are some of the biggest contributors to NIHL, where sounds can regularly go over 100dBA, where exposure at 100dBA should be no more than 15 minutes without protection. There can also be single exposure incidents that can cause permanent NIHL, where intense sound levels are above 140dBA.

The Signs

Early signs of NIHL include ringing and buzzing, muffling of sounds, difficulty understanding speech, which can be reduced after sound exposure or through less sound exposure. These signs can completely disappear after exposure, where only a temporary threshold shift has occurred. If the signs do not disappear and continued exposure occurs, what is known as a permanent threshold shift will happen, where NIHL is permanent and irreversible. As a result early signs will then become more severe! Worsening tinnitus, hyperacusis, distortion and poorer speech can all occur and difficulty hearing conversations in rooms and loud groups is very common. NIHL can also decrease the ability to listen and play music effectively, by causing things like abnormal pitch perception, loudness recruitment and diplacusis

What can you do?

The solution to preventing NIHL is quite simple, by reducing exposure to the noise itself. You can either avoid it or use hearing protection! Unfortunately many people continue to practice unsafe listening practices and don’t wear earplugs, even in instances where they know damage is being caused. Many people, especially musicians, and younger concert goers and workers  believe they are not needed, or they think sound quality and the ability to communicate is reduced when wearing hearing protection, like earplugs. This point alone is a big reason for the rapid increase in NIHL and studies have shown that people who regularly wear quality earplugs like dBud in fact believe that they have no effect on the quality of sound, whilst reducing the likelihood of NIHL.

dBud to the Rescue!

Unlike other earplugs dBud are proven to keep the sound quality in check, whilst protecting your ears from dangerous noise and NIHL. They offer an ease of handling in use with two settings that allow you to follow a conversation and maintain communication, whilst being protected at the same time. dBud expel the myth that earplugs reduce sound quality and hinder communication and the are one of the most simple and effective!