UT Health Physicians

Information on Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Ear, Hearing and Balance Disorders

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Every day, we experience sound in our environment, such as the sounds from television and radio, household appliances, and traffic. Normally, we hear these sounds at safe levels that do not affect our hearing. However, when we are exposed to harmful noise, sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time, sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). These sensitive structures, called hair cells, are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back.

Can noise-induced hearing loss be prevented?

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. All individuals should understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health in everyday life.

To protect your hearing:

  • Know which noises, those at or above 85 decibels, can cause damage.
  • Wear earplugs or other hearing protective devices when involved in a loud activity. Special earplugs and earmuffs are available at hardware and sporting goods stores.
  • Be alert to hazardous noise in the environment.
  • Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
  • Make family, friends and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.

 If you suspect hearing loss, have a medical examination by an otolaryngologist (a physician who specializes in diseases of the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck) and a hearing test by an audiologist (a health professional trained to measure and help individuals deal with hearing loss).

Treatment options for noise-induced hearing loss

  • Wear hearing protective devices to prevent further damage.
  • Wearing hearing aids can compensate for permanent damage to fragile hearing structures.

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.