Hearing damage can be caused by several factors. But do you actually know which are the three main reasons? Let's take a look!
1. Exposure to noise
This is the most common cause of hearing damage. Prolonged or repeated exposure to noises at high decibel levels can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. This can happen from noise at the workplace (e.g. in construction or industry), when listening to loud music (especially through headphones or at concerts), or by other loud activities (such as using a lawnmower or leaf blower).
Workplaces with high noise levels, such as construction sites, factories, and manufacturing facilities, can quickly lead to hearing damage without adequate protection. Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB), and exposure to sounds above 85 dB for prolonged periods can already cause hearing damage. For reference, the sound of a jackhammer or heavy machinery can easily reach 100 dB or more.
2. Age-related hearing loss
As people age, they may experience natural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss occurs gradually and usually affects both ears. It is the result of changes in the inner ear structures, reduced blood supply to the ear, or changes in the nerve pathways leading to the brain. Age-related hearing loss can also be affected by genetic factors, prolonged exposure to noise, and other health problems such as heart disease or diabetes.
3. Ototoxic drugs and chemicals
Certain drugs and chemicals can harm the inner ear and cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. This includes some antibiotics, cancer treatment drugs (chemotherapy), diuretics, and drugs used to treat serious illnesses. Besides drugs, certain chemicals used in industry and agriculture can also be ototoxic.
Know the consequences...
Working with or without hearing protection in noisy environments has a considerable impact On the risk of hearing damage. Without hearing protection, the hair cells in the inner ear, which are responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals to the brain, can be damaged or die. This process is irreversible and leads to permanent hearing loss.
Prolonged exposure to noise can also cause tinnitus, a constant beep, buzz, or noise in the ears, even when there is no external sound source.
Hearing damage can make it difficult to follow conversations, especially in noisy environments, which can lead to social isolation and reduced quality of life.
Consistently wearing hearing protection in noisy work environments is essential to reduce the risk of permanent minimise hearing damage.
It is important that both employers and employees are aware of the risks of noise exposure and take the necessary steps to protect hearing. Regular hearing tests can also help identify hearing loss early, allowing for timely interventions.