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Definition

What is acoustic trauma?

Acoustic trauma is an injury to the inner ear that’s often caused by exposure to a high-decibel noise. This injury can occur after exposure to a single, very loud noise or from exposure to noises at a lower decibel over a long period of time. Some injuries to the head can cause acoustic trauma if the eardrum is ruptured or if other injuries to the inner ear occur.

The eardrum protects the middle ear and inner ear. It also transmits signals to the brain by way of small vibrations.

Acoustic trauma can damage the way that these vibrations are handled, resulting in hearing loss. Sound moving into the inner ear can cause what doctors sometimes call a threshold shift, which can trigger hearing loss.

How common is acoustic trauma?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of acoustic trauma?

The common symptoms of acoustic trauma are:

  • Partial hearing loss that most often involves exposure to high-pitched sounds. The hearing loss may slowly get worse.
  • Noises, ringing in the ear (tinnitus).

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes acoustic trauma?

Acoustic trauma is a common cause of sensory hearing loss. Damage to the hearing mechanisms within the inner ear may be caused by:

  • Explosion near the ear
  • Firing a gun near the ear
  • Long-term exposure to loud noises (such as loud music or machinery)

Risk factors

What increases my risk for acoustic trauma?

People at an increased risk for acoustic trauma include those who:

  • Work at a job where loud industrial equipment operates for long periods of time
  • Live or work where other high-decibel sounds continue for long periods of time
  • Frequently attend music concerts and other events with high-decibel music
  • Use gun ranges
  • Encounter extremely loud sounds without proper equipment, such as earplugs

People continually exposed to noise levels over 85 decibels are at an increased risk for acoustic trauma. Your doctor may provide an estimate of the decibel range of normal daily sounds, like an estimate of around 90 decibels for a small engine. They’ll do this to help you assess whether the sounds that you encounter put you at a higher risk for acoustic trauma and hearing loss.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is acoustic trauma diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you what kind of noises you’ve been exposed to during different times of your life to help make a diagnosis. Your doctor may also use something called audiometry to detect signs of acoustic trauma. In this test, you are exposed to sounds of varying loudness and of different tones to more carefully assess what you can and can’t hear.

How is acoustic trauma treated?

The hearing loss may not be treatable. The goal of treatment is to protect the ear from further damage. Eardrum repair may be needed.

A hearing aid may help you communicate. You can also learn coping skills, such as lip reading.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage acoustic trauma?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you prevent acoustic trauma:

  • Wear protective ear plugs or earmuffs to prevent hearing damage from loud equipment.
  • Be aware of risks to your hearing from activities such as shooting guns, using chain saws, or driving motorcycles and snowmobiles.
  • Do not listen to loud music for long periods of time.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 27, 2017 | Last Modified: October 27, 2017

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