Logically, it makes sense: those who have worked around high noise levels for many years and have trouble hearing must have a hearing loss that is caused strictly by noise exposure at work, right?
In actuality, other factors can play a role in how much hearing loss a person will have over the course of their lifetime. For example, certain health factors can make one person more susceptible to injurious noise than another. Smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure, for instance, can increase the amount of hearing loss suffered from over exposure to noise. The accumulation of birthdays, a.k.a, getting older, can also be a factor in the amount of hearing loss a person may have. Genetics can also play a part. So, the cause of one person’s hearing loss will depend on many different factors. This is also why two people can work in the same company for the same length of time doing similar jobs and have very different hearing losses.
When hearing loss is due to an over-exposure to noise, a very predictable pattern of hearing loss as well as a predictable degree of hearing loss will emerge. The amount of loss a person will experience is based on how loud the noise was during the actual exposure itself and how long the exposure lasted. Long- term studies have been completed with the help of individuals who experienced up to 40 years of sustained noise exposure and with varying levels of noise exposure. The people involved with the studies had a hearing test every year. The results provided a means of determining the pattern, type and severity of hearing loss that is typical of long-term noise exposure based on the number of years that noise was experienced and the loudness of the noise itself. Researchers found that hearing loss from over exposure to noise causes a predictable and progressive loss of hearing as long as the person continued to be exposed to that noise without the protection that proper earplugs or ear muffs provide.
Interestingly, once someone stops working around noise, the progression of the hearing loss can stop all together. If hearing loss keeps progressing after a person leaves the noisy job, the change is not from the past noise exposure, it’s from the other factors of health and lifestyle.
If you think you have hearing loss due to noise exposure, there are two things to do right away: First, make sure to invest in good ear protection. Using ear protection in any instance of loud noise will make sure that you do not experience more hearing loss due to noise exposure. Second, make an appointment for a hearing evaluation. Because hearing loss due to noise exposure can progress over time, you may be unaware of how much you may be missing. We’ll be glad to test your hearing and make suggestions on how to best protect your ears from further damage and make suggestions for better hearing, too.