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Can Noise-Induced Hearing Loss be Temporary?

an older gentleman who is hard of hearing

In every aspect of our lives, we are surrounded by noise. The more you listen to loud sounds or excessive noise, the likelier it is to affect your hearing. There is a connection between excessive noise and hearing loss, but it's important to note that hearing loss can be temporary, as well as permanent. And specifically, in relation to exposure to noise and high levels of sound, this can result in what is called noise-induced hearing loss. 

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

As part of our everyday lives, we experience sound, from the television to traffic and household appliances. These sounds are usually at very safe levels that do not damage our hearing. But if sounds are too loud, they can be harmful, even if they are brief. The sounds can cause damage to the sensitive structures within the inner ear which can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. It can be immediate or may take some time for the individual to notice. It can affect one or both ears and may be temporary or permanent.

What are the effects and signs of noise-induced hearing loss?

If you are exposed to loud noises over a long period of time, you may begin to lose your hearing. Damage from noise exposure tends to be gradual which means you will not notice it or you may ignore it until it gets to the point where it becomes a major issue. There are signs that you may experience noise-induced hearing loss over time, such as turning up the television or asking people to repeat themselves. 

Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a loud burst of sound, an explosion or a gunshot. This can be immediate and cause permanent hearing problems. But there can be exposure to loud noises which may cause tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, which may subside over time. These are classed under the permanent threshold shift. It can be experienced forty-eight hours after a loud noise or can occur if you've been exposed to excessive noise over a long period of time.

How is noise-induced hearing loss temporary?

While it's possible to experience permanent issues with your hearing, the temporary hearing threshold shift is something that we all might have experienced. For example, if you go to a loud event like a nightclub or a concert, upon leaving the venue, the sensation of sounds being quieter than usual or a muffled feeling in your hearing is a temporary hearing threshold shift. 

Commonly believed to be caused by your ears trying to adapt, it goes into a defensive mode where chemicals in the inner ear work to make your hearing less sensitive to noise. This can last for a few minutes or many hours depending on the level of the noise you were exposed to. If you expose yourself to loud noise where temporary hearing threshold shifts occur too regularly, it's likely you will develop a permanent noise-induced hearing loss.

How can I prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

While the shift from temporary to permanent hearing loss changes with each person, the more exposure you have to loud noise over time, the likelier you will get permanent hearing loss. One of the best ways to reduce your exposure is to keep your distance from the source of the loud noise. If you are in a loud venue like a nightclub, moving away from the speakers will improve your chances of not having temporary hearing loss later on. 

You could also try earplugs. There are so many different hearing protection devices around, and for everyday use, earplugs are one of the best. You can find specially designed earplugs that are suitable for certain environments. For example, if you go to concerts and are exposed to loud music, you can get special musician’s earplugs that allow you to listen to the music clearly while keeping the volume at a safe level.

If you have any concerns about your exposure to loud noises or you are experiencing temporary noise-induced hearing loss, get in contact with a hearing instrument specialist (HIS). They can provide you with comprehensive advice on how to protect your ears from overexposure to loud noise, but can also recommend hearing protection devices such as earplugs that you will be able to wear. It's also possible for them to make custom-fitted earplugs that are discreet and comfortable to wear. 

Here at Affordable Hearing, we can help you to understand how your hearing can be protected. If you want to learn more about Affordable Hearing, contact us today at Irmo 803-749-6017 or Orangeburg and Santee 803-531-6403.