Noise-induced hearing loss is a gradual and progressive sensorineural hearing impairment caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises. When noise-induced hearing loss occurs, the initial symptom often experienced is tinnitus, which is more prevalent than actual hearing loss. High-pitched tinnitus is commonly observed.
Tinnitus is a common clinical symptom with a high incidence across all age groups and genders. It can manifest as ringing, chirping, or even sound resembling wind, rain, whistling, or ringing bells. Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears, intermittently or persistently. In milder cases, it may only be noticeable in quiet surroundings, while in severe cases, the disturbance is constant. Despite being considered a minor ailment, tinnitus significantly affects people's daily lives, work, study, and rest, posing a threat to overall health.
The impact of noise on the auditory organs generally falls into two categories. Firstly, exposure to noisy environments can lead to auditory fatigue. As the auditory organs receive sound stimuli, the body naturally responds. However, when the stimulation is excessive, exceeding 90 decibels, it can damage the auditory organs, specifically the hair cells of the cochlea. Even in a quiet environment after leaving the noisy surroundings, the ears may continue to ring. This tinnitus can mask hearing, making it difficult to understand conversations. After a period, the tinnitus diminishes, and hearing recovers, illustrating the phenomenon of auditory fatigue.
On the other hand, prolonged exposure to intense noise in the workplace can lead to damage and degeneration of cochlear hair cells. The extent of damage is closely related to the intensity, frequency, and duration of noise exposure.
Since the initial impact primarily affects high frequencies outside the range of everyday speech, individuals may not notice a decline in hearing during routine conversations. Over the years, hearing loss gradually develops within the frequency range of speech, eventually causing apparent deafness.
If you find yourself consistently in noisy environments, whether at work or in daily life, or if you experience prolonged periods of tinnitus, it's crucial to take notice. Schedule a professional hearing test promptly to understand your hearing condition. Seek expert advice, such as considering a change in work or living environments. If that's not feasible, consider using a suitable hearing aid to protect your remaining hearing. Even if the test results indicate normal hearing, it's essential to remain vigilant, as hearing loss can occur unnoticed. Regular check-ups at specialized institutions are recommended to ensure early detection and timely treatment.
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