Who is at risk from noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss affects about 15 percent of Americans.

Some people may get noise-induced hearing loss from one very loud noise, such as an explosion, and others from prolonged exposure to loud noise over time. There are two factors that affect the likelihood of noise causing damage to hearing – the power of the sound, and the length of exposure to it. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for damage to occur.

So, how loud is too loud and, how long is too long? 

How loud is too loud?

Any sound above 85dB can cause hearing loss after approximately eight hours of continuous exposure. However, if the noise level is 100dB, your hearing could be damaged in as little as 15 minutes.

Who is at risk from noise-induced hearing loss?

Unsurprisingly, airport ground staff who direct the take-off and landing of jets are possibly subjected to the most noise in terms of both power and length of exposure. Formula One Drivers and crew are also exposed to high noise levels for prolonged periods of time. Construction workers too, may face regular exposure to very loud sounds. (A hammer drill can register up to 120dB.) In each of these industries, workers should be given ear protectors whilst at work.

In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set the following limits in order to protect workers from noise-induced hearing loss:

OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per day Sound level
8 90dB
6 92dB
4 95dB
3 97dB
2 100dB
1.5 102dB
1 105dB
.5 110dB
.25 or less 115dB

In the UK, The Health and Safety Executive requires employers to provide hearing protection is the daily of weekly average of noise exposure exceeds 85 dB. Employers must assess workers’ health risk and provide information and training at 80 dB. Workers must not be exposed to more than 87 dBof noise – taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.

MP3 users

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Others who are at risk but who may not realize it are those who regularly listen to music via headphones. In order to be heard above the noise of the subway, or traffic, the volume can sometimes be turned up as high as 100dB, which is considered to be a dangerously high level.


Violist sues Royal Opera House for hearing damage

Many famous musicians have spoken about how their continued exposure to sounds around 110dB has affected their hearing. And it’s not just rock stars who are at risk – classical musicians are also regularly exposed to sounds of around 95dB.

People who work in live music venues and nightclubs may also be frequently subjected to noise as loud as 115dB or 155dB. Again, their employer should provide them with ear protectors.

Recreational activities

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Other recreational activities that can put you at risk for NIHL include target shooting and hunting, snowmobile riding, playing in a band, and attending loud concerts, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Harmful noises at home may come from sources including lawnmowers, leaf blowers and woodworking tools.

How to protect your hearing

If you know you are going to be exposed to loud sounds for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to get some form of ear protection such as ear defenders or ear plugs.

About 1.1 billion people around the world are affected by hearing loss, including more young people than ever. If we want to enjoy the sounds of life it’s time we be more active to protect our ears.

Make these small changes to save your hearing.


14 invaluable pieces of advice from moms of children with hearing loss



Parenting a child with a hearing loss can be very similar, but also very different to parenting a hearing child.  There can be challenges –  big and small – and I am starting to realise a lot of these challenges can be met with frustration, for both myself and for Harry.

When I first found out that Harry had hearing loss, I loved reading advice from other mothers. So, in celebration of Mother’s Day, I asked mothers of children with a hearing loss for their best piece of parenting advice.

Here’s what they have to say: 

“The first thing to remember is that your child is a child before they are a deaf child.” Judi, mum of Alex (7)

“The difference is mainly that there is more emphasis on the visual side of things.  Otherwise bringing up a deaf child isn’t much different.”- Sarah, mum of Alby (11)

“Repitition, repetition, repetition!  The more you repeat words and language the more your child will pick it up.” – Lucy, mum of Zach (2)

“Don’t put too much pressure on language and let them guide you with what they are most interested in.  Our son is car crazy so he was quicker to learn the names of car parts and tool than anything else!” – Ellen, mum of Ben (3)

“Learning to swim is crucial for a deaf child.  If they get into trouble in the water they might not be able to hear people or sounds around them.” – Ashleigh, mum of Lilly (7)

“Sometimes we have to spend more time with our child when in social situations as it can be overwhelming.  I often have to encourage her to join in by getting down at her level and joining in myself!” – Mandy, mum of Isabel (2)

“There are so many books around that are so visually stimulating they will help immensely with language and sign skills.  A lot of children’s books are repetitive and involve actions that your little one will pick up really quickly.” – Sarah, mum of Teddy (2)

“A lot of emotions can come with being a deaf child.  Try to be understanding and sympathetic without letting them get away with murder!” – Laura, mum of Henry (15)

“Learning some basic sign language really helped us to relieve some communication frustrations with our toddler.” – Monika, mum of Loren (1)

“We put sticky labels on various objects around the house so that our daughter can see the word written as well as the actual object, to give her a helping hand with what sign or word it is associated with.” – Natalie, mum of Robyn (8)

“Try to encourage your little one to say or sign what they want rather than just pointing, to encourage them to communicate.” – Laura, mum of Harry (2)

“I have made a scrapbook for our 2 year old daughter with pictures of all our family and friends to show her who they all are to her and their names.  I will then show her using the book who we will be seeing that day so she knows exactly what we will be doing.” – Frances, mum of Elsa (2)

“Try to be very patient and do not get frustrated when you need to repeat something to your child.  They may need more time to process what you’re saying than a hearing child” – Orla, mum of Ellis (5)

“Bear in mind that hearing can be very tiring for a child with a hearing loss.  Our little boy is so tired after a day at school and we trying to get him tucked up in bed early to get some well needed rest!” – Rebecca, mum of Alex (7)


4 Listening Skills to Practice with your Hard-of-Hearing Child

When you have good hearing, it’s easy to take normal everyday sounds for granted without even realizing it.

However, for someone with hearing loss, developing listening skills takes practice. Even the beep of a microwave or the tweet of a bird can be totally new and surprising.

If you have a deaf child with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, I’m sure you’re used to visiting centres for speech and listening therapies. As helpful as those structured sessions are for developing listening skills, sometimes it’s easy for little ones to get bored and switch off because it’s a forced activity.

So here’s how we practice listening skills:

Get Outside


Lately, I have found that going for a simple walk outdoors and talking about all the different noises we can hear has proven to be more effective for Harry’s listening skills than anything else we have tried. Try stomping through a pile of crunchy leaves this fall and watch your child’s reaction to the rustling sound it makes. You could talk about the difference between the noise of a dry autumnal leaf as opposed to a fresh green leaf on a tree.

Harry and I like to sit on a bench watching different vehicles go past, and we talk about how a bus or truck make a ‘big noisy sound’, whereas a car is quiet and a bicycle, even quieter.

Go Shopping


I know going to a supermarket with a pre-schooler can be most parents’ idea of hell, but why not turn it into a listening experience?

Harry’s favorite thing to do is to listen to the cashier ‘bleeping’ the shopping at the checkout. I also like to ask Harry to go and get me apples or the milk and put them in the basket to test his listening abilities.

In the Car


There are so many different sounds in the car: the turn signals, horn, sirens whizzing past, and music coming through the speakers. I always used to worry that Harry would be overwhelmed in the car with all of these noises going on around him, but he has always really loved it.

We talk about things in and around the car and Harry often asks me. “What’s that?” when he hears a new sound.

At Home

Of course, you don’t actually have to go anywhere to have a listening experience, as there are hundreds of noises to hear in the comfort of your own home. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and Harry loves sitting and waiting for the microwave to ‘ping’.

You could talk about the noise of a boiling kettle, or running water; what sausages sound like when they are sizzling in a pan, or the sound when toasts pops out of the toaster.


Hearing aid outcomes in older adults Implications for millions of adults with hearing loss

The first-ever placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical trial of hearing aid outcomes published today in the American Journal of Audiology shows that older adults benefit from hearing aid use.

Led by researchers at Indiana University with funding support (Grant No. R01 DC011771) from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the study sought to compare patient outcomes when hearing aids are delivered via an audiology “best practices” model compared with an “over-the-counter” (OTC) model. In the context of this study, the OTC model meant that patients received a high-quality, pre-programmed hearing aid that was not fitted by an audiologist.

The methodology is generally considered the highest standard for clinical trials.

“The research findings provide firm evidence that hearing aids do, in fact, provide significant benefit to older adults,” said Larry Humes, PhD, CCC-A, a distinguished professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington and the study’s lead author. “This is important because, even though millions of Americans have hearing loss, there has been an absence of rigorous clinical research that has demonstrated clear benefits provided by hearing aids to older adults. Consequently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has not been able to support widespread hearing screening for adults over age 50. This study, along with others to follow, will help establish the evidence base needed to foster better hearing health care for many older Americans.”

The study looked at 154 adults ages 55-79 years with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. All participants received the same high-end digital mini hearing aids fitted in both ears. Subjects were divided into three groups. One (the best practices group) received “best practices” services from audiologists that included professional fitting and counseling; one (the OTC group) received no professional fitting by an audiologist and selected their own pre-programmed hearing aids; and one (the placebo group) received a professional fitting but used a hearing aid that was programmed to provide no acoustical benefit.

Researchers found that hearing aids are effective in older adults for both the audiology best practices model and the OTC model. There were no significant differences in outcome between these two service-delivery approaches for five of the six outcome measures, but the OTC group fared somewhat worse when it came to satisfaction with their hearing aids. Fewer OTC participants were also likely to purchase their hearing aids after the trial (55% for the OTC group vs. 81% for the best practices group, with 36% for the placebo group). Following the initial 6-week trial, both the OTC and placebo groups were offered hearing aids under the best practices model. Satisfaction significantly increased for patients in both groups who chose to continue under audiologist care, and more participants opted to purchase their hearing aids after this continued period of care than after the initial trial.

In the United States, a large discrepancy exists between the number of people who could benefit from hearing aids and those who actually wear them. Close to 29 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids, according to NIDCD. Yet, among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from wearing hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30%) have ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20-69 (approximately 16%) who could benefit have ever used them.

In the study, researchers noted that NIDCD has prioritized identifying research areas that could lead to the improvement of hearing health care for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss — in particular, enhancing the accessibility and affordability of hearing health care. This study helps answer a high-priority research question of how current delivery systems can be used or modified to increase accessibility and affordability of hearing health care, according to study authors.

“More studies are needed to assess the generalization of the results obtained here to other patient populations, other devices, and other models of OTC service delivery,” said Humes, adding, “All of the devices used in this study were of high quality as opposed to the simpler, less expensive devices many associate with an OTC model. Also, all patients received a complete audiologic evaluation prior to treatment — another potential difference from some OTC models under consideration. These factors could impact patient outcomes. However, the results of this study should serve as a yardstick for comparing outcomes of future hearing aid studies.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.



Hearing Loss Can Change How Nerve Cells Are Wired

Hearing Loss Can Change How Nerve Cells Are Wired

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Common causes of occluded ears and temporary hearing loss like childhood ear infections and build-up of ear wax, or even the common cold–where everything sounds muffled, can lead to changes in the hearing system. Even short-term blockages of this kind can lead to remarkable auditory changes, altering the behavior and structure of nerve cells that relay information from the ear to the brain, according to a new University at Buffalo (UB) study.

The research, published online in the December 1, 2016 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, investigated what happened when mice had their ears surgically blocked for a period of several days to “dampen” hearing. The investigators saw that some significant changes do occur within a few days. “What’s still unclear, however, is whether the cells return to their normal state when acoustic conditions return to normal,” said Matthew Xu-Friedman, PhD, the lead researcher and an associate professor of biological sciences in UB’s College of Arts and Sciences. We see in our research that the cells do seem to mostly bounce back, but we don’t yet know whether they completely recover.”

According to a recent announcement from UB, the changes the research team observed had to do with neurotransmitters — chemicals that help send signals from the ear to the brain. In mice whose ears were blocked, cells in the auditory nerve started to use their supplies of neurotransmitter more freely. They depleted their reserves of these chemicals rapidly each time a new auditory signal came in, and they decreased the amount of space within the cells that housed sac-like structures called vesicles — biological storage tanks where neurotransmitter chemicals are kept.

“When it’s quiet, the demands on the auditory nerve cells are not as great,” said Xu-Friedman in the announcement. “So it makes sense that you would see these changes: You no longer need as much neurotransmitter, so why invest in a lot of storage? If you’re not that active, you don’t need a big gas tank. And you’re not as afraid to use up what you have. This is one plausible explanation for what we observed.”

The changes in cellular structure and behavior were the opposite of what Xu-Friedman’s team saw in a previous study that placed mice in a consistently noisy environment. In that project, the mice’s auditory nerve cells started to economize their resources, conserving supplies of neurotransmitter while increasing the storage capacity for the chemicals.

“It looks like these effects are two sides of the same coin, and they might be the first hints of a general rule that nerve cells regulate their connections based on how active they are,” Xu-Friedman says.

In the more recent study, cellular changes began to reverse themselves when the mice’s ears were unplugged. When a treatment was “undone, the cells started to go back to what they were like before. Yet, it’s not clear to the researchers if the cells completely recover, so the team needs to do more research to see if that’s the case. Xu-Friedman also wants to study what happens when cells are repeatedly exposed to conductive hearing loss, as happens in some small children who get recurring ear infections. Xu-Friedman’s co-authors on the paper were first author Xiaowen Zhuang, a UB PhD student in biological sciences, and Wei Sun, PhD, UB associate professor of Communicative Disorders and Sciences. The research was suported by the National Science Foundation.