Industrial Deafness

Acoustic trauma is an injury to the inner ear. This is often caused by exposure to high decibel noise, usually over 85 decibels.

The injury can be caused by a single very loud noise like gunfire or an explosion, or by exposure to noise of a lower decibel but over a long period of time.  The eardrum protects both the inner and middle ear. Its job is to transmit signals to the brain by way of small vibrations.

Acoustic trauma can damage the way these vibrations are picked up by the brain, and this causes hearing loss.  Sound moving into the inner ear can cause what doctors call a threshold shift, which can trigger hearing loss.

Types of Acoustic Trauma

If your symptoms are caused by acoustic trauma, your doctor will take a history to determine whether the trauma is caused by injury or trauma that occurred by exposure to loud or constant noise.

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Causes of Acoustic Trauma

Some people are at a higher risk for acoustic trauma. Some of these people may include:

  • Tradesmen or people who work at a job where loud industrial equipment or tools are used
  • Live or work where high decibel sounds are heard
  • People who use gun ranges
  • People who go to loud music concerts or other events with high decibel music
  • Constant use of headphones or earbuds at high volume

If you are continually exposed to high decibel sound of over 85 decibels you are at an increased risk for acoustic trauma.

Symptoms of Industrial Deafness

The main symptom of acoustic trauma is hearing loss. Usually people will have difficulty hearing the high-frequency sounds.  Difficulty in hearing the lower-frequency sounds may occur later.

One very important symptom of acoustic hearing loss is called tinnitus. Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in the ear or head. Tinnitus can be caused by other factors but it is very often the beginning of acoustic trauma when there has been exposure to loud noise.  Long term tinnitus is a very good indicator to suspect acoustic trauma.

Treatment of hearing loss

Hearing loss can be treated but if the loss is permanent, it cannot be cured. Hearing aids may be helpful and your doctor will recommend this if it will be of use to you.

Prevention and Ear Protection

Ear protection is vital to help prevent acoustic trauma or industrial deafness.  Ear protection may prevent hearing loss from worsening or progressing so it still important to wear ear protection even if hearing loss has begun.

Diagnosis

Dr Katzen will take a thorough history and ask you questions about your exposure to noise. He will also perform an audiogram which is a hearing test. This will help determine what hearing loss there is.