Noise that’s too loud or prolonged loud noise causes tiny sensory nerve cell endings, aka hair cells, to be sheared off, to droop or be destroyed entirely. These cells are what convert sound energy to electrical signals for your brain to interpret. And these cells don’t regenerated after they’ve been damaged. Inner ear hair cell death is permanent.
Noise induced hearing loss frequently is a gradual process that often goes unnoticed. How you can tell that hearing loss may be afoot is by:
- ear pain
- speech that is muffled
- asking others to speak louder
- inability to comprehend nearby talking
How you determine noise is loud enough to cause noise induced hearing loss is when it exceeds 85 decibels. But short of carrying around a sound meter, it may be difficult to tell if what you’re hearing is too loud.
A good start is to avoid noises that seem too loud, too close for too long. This means any noise over the sound of heavy traffic is too much to hear.
Noise induced hearing loss is preventable by using some type of hearing protection, i.e earplugs or earmuffs. If you have to shout to make yourself heard, then your hearing needs to be protected.
Noise right above the decibel threshold may not be seem all that loud. But whenever in doubt, pull those earplugs out for the health of it.