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Communication Disorders
Communication Disorders

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise Induced Hearing Loss is defined as overexposure to harmful noise (sounds that are too loud for too long and a single exposure to a very loud sound, blast or impulse).  This overexposure can fatigue and ultimately damage the sensitive structures of our hearing organ (cochlea).  These sensitive structures include the hair cells which are small sensory cells that send sound energy to the brain.  Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back.

What is too loud?

According to the Canadian Provincial jurisdiction, the maximum permitted noise exposure level for 8 hours is 85dB(A).  Experts recommend that for every 3dB above 85dB(A), the listening time should be halved.  

For example, 2 hours @ 91dB, or 1 hour @ 94dB, or 30 mins @ 97dB

Warning signs for NIHL include:

  • ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • the feeling that sounds seem muffled
  • difficulty understanding speech
  • difficulty following conversation when there is background noise

One of the fastest growing causes of hearing loss in children is NIHL.  Teenagers, and Tweens alike, are groups at risk because, more than ever, these groups of children are subjecting themselves to louder sounds for longer periods of time. This is most obvious with the increase in personal listening devices and the lack of regulation of the output of these systems.  

An acceptable guideline to limiting overexposure to this group from personal listening devices can be the 60/60 Rule, that is, ensure the volume is turned up no more than 60 per cent (or just past half way) for 60 mins at a time then give your ears a rest.  

Other ways to prevent NIHL include: 

  • when using personal listening devices – if the person sitting beside you can hear it, then it’s too loud
  • wear ear plugs/hearing protection when the sound is expected to be loud, like concerts, dance clubs, sporting events or work environments
  • give your ears a break from time to time – remove the sound source, reduce time spent in noisy environments, or increase the distance between you and the sound source.

Visit AboutKidsHealth for more information on personal listening devices and noise exposure.

If you have concerns speak to your doctor or an Audiologist.  As a supplement, try screening your hearing sensitivity with online applications that currently exist.