Any sound level over 80dB (decibel), may cause inner ear hearing loss. Two factors are of dominant importance: duration of exposure and intensity of sound. Close up intense unhealthy sounds lasting microsecond such as gunshots, explosions, fire crackers may cause severe permanent hearing loss. Longer exposure to high intensity sounds such as music, vacuüm cleaners, lawnmower, electrical kitchen appliances, vehicle horns, sirens and industrial noise may also cause noise damage.
Younger children are more prone to noise induced inner ear damage than older people. No wonder, the popular digital audio players such as iPods, mp3 adds new concerns about listening to high sound levels for long periods of time.
The symptoms of inner ear damage maybe high-pitched continuous tinnitus with soft hearing. These symptoms maybe temporary and may clear after a few weeks. Whatever the source of damaging noise, two basic solutions exist: protection and avoidance. During a person's recovery phase from hearing loss, it is important to prevent excessive noise exposure. Parents should alert their children on possible offenders such as loud radios, noisy toys and earphones. These gadgets should be removed or silenced.
People exposed to excessive noise as an occupational hazard should protect themselves against sound damage with the essential protection devices that is, ear muffs or earplugs. Pain is usually induced by noise levels exceeding 80dB and should be avoided. Earplugs cut the sound by 30dB and external sound ear muffler offers further protection. With noise induced hearing loss the ear more directly exposed to the source is more severely affected.
Ringing in the ears after noise exposure is most likely due to a temporary or permanent hearing loss. The person vaguely perceives the tinnitus as ringing in the head, but cannot localise it to either ear.
Its described as a hallucination of sound in your head. It maybe originating either from the inner ear or from outside of the ear.
Tinnitus that originates from the inner ear occurs more often in older men. Most of these people may tolerate or live with the condition. This is mostly seen in war veterans who have served with the heavy weapons. This is by far the most common type.
Noise exposure may cause temporary or permanent ringing in the ears. Explosions close to the ear e.g. gunshots may cause tinnitus as well as high tone hearing loss. The hearing may partly return but the tinnitus may remain independently. Trauma to the skull e.g. blow to the ear or motor vehicle accident may cause ringing of the ears to be overly dependent on high tone hearing. Some ototoxic drugs e.g salicylates may cause temporary or permanent tinnitus proportional to the drugs intake or dosage. Old Age may also be associated with ears ringing.
Tinnitus treatment is tailored to the cause:
- Fitting of resounding hearing aid will often have a useful tinnitus masking effect. Sound maskers are effective, either of the ear canal or noise simulator located close to the affected person. Different types of noise maybe programmed e.g. rain on tin roof, a water fall. A home remedy of a bedside radio tuned to be hardly audible to the person may achieve similar masking effect. This is because the 'white noise' emitted by the radio neutralises the ringing in the ear.
- Use of tranquilizers or hypnotic drugs may occasionally be essential for a short period to fight insomnia associated with severe tinnitus.