What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?


If you having trouble hearing but retirement is still years (or decades) away, chances are good that you are suffering the effects of noise-induced hearing loss in Portland. If so, you are hardly alone; aside from the natural effects of aging, noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause of hearing impairment, and affects individuals of all ages. The good news? It is also fairly easy to prevent.

The Consequences of Too Much Noise

Loud Environment in Portland

Approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 experience noise-induced hearing loss – and many are unaware of their impairment. Exposure to loud sounds permanently damages the sensory cells in the inner ear, leading to irreversible hearing loss. High frequencies are affected first; because it often takes time for you to realize you are unable to hear high-pitched sounds effectively, you may continue to engage in activities that cause further damage to your hearing. Hearing loss is progressive; left untreated, it will eventually cause difficulties with speech comprehension and negatively impact many aspects of your daily life. Noise-induced hearing loss affects social and academic development in children, results in poor work performance, and has been linked to a number of physical, psychological, and social side effects including depression, stress, anxiety, cognitive decline, and an increased risk of serious health conditions such as diabetes.

The statistics are sobering. Some 30 to 50 million Americans are exposed to unsafe sound levels every day; approximately 50 percent of Portland teens and young adults aged 12 to 35 are exposed to dangerous sound levels through the use of personal audio players and headphones, and 40 percent are exposed to harmful sounds in noisy environments such as bars and nightclubs. It would appear that our burgeoning craft beer scene popular music venues is both a blessing and a curse. But by taking a few precautions, you can continue to enjoy your favorite social activities while minimizing the risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss in Portland, Oregon.

Protecting Against Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Once the hair cells in your cochlea are damaged, they don’t grow back; therefore, prevention is key. There are several steps you can take to reduce the odds of damage to your hearing from noise exposure, including:

  • Wear hearing protection. When going to concerts, sporting events, and other noisy places, be sure to wear earplugs. The same holds true when engaging in noisy activities such as riding motorcycles, boats, or jet skis. Even mowing the lawn can be a noisy affair.
  • Turn down the volume. When listening to music through headphones or earbuds, keep the volume at a reasonable level. Consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones, which block out external sounds, allowing you to listen to music at a safer volume level.
  • Take frequent breaks to give your ears a rest. If you’re at a club, escape the music by stepping outside occasionally for a few minutes at a time. Enjoying a Blazers game? Take a walk around the lower mezzanine every so often, especially if the game is close and the crowd is excited. Rocking out to a heavy metal playlist on Spotify? Once that AC/DC song ends, switch over to Enya for a few minutes.

Still have questions? Your Portland audiologist can provide more tips on preventing noise-induced hearing loss.