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Hearing Loss and NIHL

by Stephanie Barry, M.S., CCC-SLP of Independent Speech, LLC.
So, what is NIHL? Well, this is hearing loss that occurs because the person has been exposed to loud noise. This can occur immediately such as hearing loss that results after a single shot from a shotgun is experienced at close range. More commonly, it is acquired over a period of time being exposed to sound levels that are too loud.

So, how loud is too loud? Research shows that a person who is exposed to noise levels at 85 decibels or higher for a prolonged period of time is at risk for hearing loss. Let's look at how loud common things are:

  • A normal conversation -- 60 decibels
  • A lawnmower -- 90 decibels
  • An MP3 player -- 105 decibels (at max level)
  • A car horn and rock concert -- 110 decibels
  • A firecracker -- 140 decibels

How can I tell if something is too loud? A good general rule is that if you have to raise your voice to be heard by someone else the noise around you (stereo, etc) is at 85 decibels or higher!

Of course you also have to take into consideration how close you are to the sound. Watching firecrackers, for example, doesn’t give you the full 140 decibels as you are a great distance from the actual source of the sound. However, MP3 players, most of which use ear buds that sit inside your ear are delivering the full 105 decibels to your ears.

The length of time also has an impact. Eight hours of 90-dB sound can cause damage to your hearing. Exposure to 100 decibels should be limited to no more than 15 minutes while regular exposure of more than 1 minute at 110 decibels risks permanent hearing loss (think of those iPods). If you have any exposure to 140-dB sound it causes immediate damage and actual pain. You might have hearing loss if you . . .

  • require frequent repetition.
  • have difficulty following conversations involving more than 2 people.
  • think that other people sound muffled or like they're mumbling.
  • have difficulty hearing in noisy situations
  • have your TV or radio turned up to a high volume.
  • feel annoyed at other people because you can't hear or understand them.

Take precautions to protect your hearing and that of those around you. Remember, the i-pod doesn't need to be so loud that person next to you can hear your favorite song nor does the car stereo need to be turned up so loud that the car actually shakes to the beat. You don't have to sit in the front row at a concert or listen to the TV so loud that a neighbor walking by knows what movie you are watching. Think about turning everything down or wearing ear protection when you can't, your ears (and those around you will thank you!)

If you think you may have some hearing loss, get an audiological evaluation! This is the only way to be sure, they are able to tell you if a hearing loss is present and if so what you can do about it. There are many types of hearing aids out there that can help. Some are even small enough to fit inside your ear canal so nobody is able to see them.

You can test your hearing yourself online but these are not clinical results and cannot determine if you have a hearing loss though they may help you determine if you should visit and audiologist. The website below shows many different websites that offer free online hearing tests.

Stephanie Barry, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist and Educational Consultant
Tel: 602-793-2958

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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