Hearing loss is a natural part of the ageing process. But noise-induced hearing loss is on the rise.

According to the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 15% of adults in the United States from age 20 to 69 and 5% of children over six years of age are affected by noise-induced hearing loss.

“The two most common reasons for hearing loss are ageing and noise-induced hearing loss,” says Dr Greta Stamper, an audiologist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Noise-induced hearing loss can occur anytime you are exposed to excessively loud sounds. It occurs most often due to repetitive exposure to loud sounds, but permanent hearing loss can occur after even one episode,” says Dr Stamper.

The most common causes of noise-induced hearing loss include exposure to loud music, lawn equipment, heavy machinery or power tools, and gunfire.

In most cases, noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and irreversible.

Hearing

According to the World Health Organization, one billion young people are at risk of hearing loss from loud music. Photo: AFP

To reduce the risk for noise-induced hearing loss, Dr Stamper offers these recommendations:

• Avoid or limit exposure to excessively loud sounds.

• Limit volume on headphones, especially for children.

• Use properly-fitting ear protection.

• Keep ear protection handy. She recommends foam ear inserts as a portable, cost-effective alternative, since they can be stored easily in a pocket, purse or glove compartment for unanticipated exposure.

• Seek medical attention if there is sudden hearing loss, ongoing ringing or pain in the ear.

Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen drives during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria on July 3, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / SAMUEL KUBANI

A typical conversation occurs at 60 decibels, while listening to music with earphones at maximum volume can go over 100 decibels, loud enough to begin causing permanent damage after just 15 minutes. Formula One cars generate noise reaching 130-140 decibels, whcih can cause immediate hearing damage. Photo: AFP

For most adults, a preventive hearing screen at age 50 is sufficient. Then, a screening every five to 10 years afterward, based on individual circumstances, is ideal, says Dr Stamper.

Once hearing loss is identified, though, an annual follow-up with an audiologist is recommended. – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service