The Effects of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Last week we discussed the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s campaign to prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL): Listen to Your Buds. The campaign focuses on how listening to personal music devices through headphones can result in permanent hearing damage, and increasing problem with youth in the United States. Today, we’ll take a closer look at what noise-induced hearing loss is, and the effect it can have on someone’s life.

What exactly is noise-induced hearing loss? Our inner ear contains tiny structures called hair cells that allow us to hear sound. These cells change the air vibrations that we hear as sound into electrical signals so our brain can perceive them. When exposed to noise at a high volume, over time these hair cells can become damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss.

What does noise-induced hearing loss sound like? NIHL doesn’t damage hearing evenly across all sounds; higher-pitched sounds are affected more so than lower-pitched sounds. Because  many sounds of human speech occur at higher frequencies  (like s, th, ch, and f), this will make speech sound distorted. This can make understanding what others say extremely challenging, and can create communication gaps when trying to speak with others, especially if you are unfamiliar with the speaker or topic.

What can we do about noise-induced hearing loss? Unfortunately, the damage done to hair cells in NIHL is permanent. There currently exists no rehab, therapy, or surgery to fix NIHL. However, it is entirely preventable. Simply avoid exposure to loud noise, especially for long periods of time. Keep the volume of your personal music at a low level, and wear ear-plugs or other protection when you know you’ll be exposed to high volumes, like at rock concerts.

Has your life been affected by noise-induced hearing loss? Share your story with us in the comments section!

Do you or someone you know suffer from noise-induced hearing loss? Contact Speech Associates of NY and find out how a speech-language pathologist can help you to communicate your best despite your hearing impairment. Call us at 917-841-2965 or visit us on the web at

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