How Do I Know if I Have Hearing Loss Caused by Loud Noise?
- 10 Signs of Hearing Loss
- Prevention and Early Detection of Hearing Loss are Important
- Children Should Have Their Hearing Tested
- Tips for People at Risk for Noise-Related Hearing Loss
- Are You at Risk for Loud Noise-Related Hearing Loss?
- Regular Check-Ups Can Help Identify Early Hearing Loss
- Learn More about Hearing Tests
- For More Information
- Did You Know That Noise Can Cause Other Health Problems Too?
Prevention and early detection of hearing loss are important. If you have any signs of hearing loss or if you are at risk for hearing loss, get your hearing tested.
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, you may have hearing loss caused by noise:
- Speech and other sounds seem muffled
- Trouble hearing high-pitched sounds (e.g., birds, doorbell, telephone, alarm clock)
- Trouble understanding conversations when you are in a noisy place, such as a restaurant
- Trouble understanding speech over the phone
- Trouble hearing speech consonants (e.g., trouble hearing the difference between s and f, between p and t, or between sh and th in speech)
- Asking others to speak more slowly and clearly
- Asking someone to speak more loudly or repeat what they said
- Turning up the volume of the television or radio
Loud noise can cause ringing, hissing, or roaring in the ears (a condition called tinnitus). This usually occurs immediately after you are exposed to the loud noise, but then it usually, though not always, goes away. However, it can be an indication of early hearing damage.
After you are exposed to loud noise, sounds that seem normal to most people may start to sound unbearably loud to you (a condition called hyperacusis). People with this increased sensitivity to sound may experience discomfort or physical pain. And it may be a sign of hearing damage.
- Ringing in the ears
- Hypersensitivity to certain sounds (certain sounds are very bothersome or create pain)
If you have any signs of hearing loss, get tested by a qualified healthcare provider.
Don’t wait until you show signs of hearing loss. Have your hearing examined by your doctor during your regular checkup. A basic hearing evaluation usually includes a quick look in the ear with an special light for looking into the ear canal (otoscope) and other checks to assess the sounds you can hear.
Your doctor may refer you to a hearing specialist (audiologist) or other healthcare provider who is qualified to test hearing if you
- Have a history of exposure to loud noise,
- Feel your hearing has changed, or
- Have family or friends that say you have trouble hearing and understanding them. Those around us can be the first to notice our hearing problems.
The audiologist (hearing specialist) may have you listen to different sounds through headphones. This helps identify the softest sounds you can hear. The audiologist may have you repeat lists of words or complete other special tests.
Children should have their hearing tested before they enter school or any time there is a concern about the child’s hearing. Children who do not pass the hearing screening need to get a full hearing test as soon as possible. For details on screening and tests in children, visit CDC Screening | Hearing Loss in Children.
- Avoid noisy places whenever possible.
- Use earplugs, protective earmuffs, or noise-canceling headphones when around loud noises.
- Keep the volume down when using earbuds or headphones.
- Ask your doctor for a hearing checkup if you suspect you have had hearing loss.
The following conditions and exposures (to loud noises) can increase your risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
- Genetics and individual susceptibility to noise
- Long-standing (chronic) conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure
- Injuries to the ear
- Organic liquid chemicals, such as toluene
- Certain medicines
Medicines that damage the ear are called ototoxic. The damage can result in hearing loss, ringing in the ears, or loss of balance. More than 200 medicines are ototoxic. They include certain antibiotics like gentamicin, cancer treatment drugs like cisplatin and carboplatin, and pain relievers that contain salicylate like aspirin, quinine, loop diuretics. And many other medicines. For more information, read “Ototoxicity: The Hidden Menace.”
Regular check-ups are especially important if you are at risk for hearing loss, such as
- If you have a family history of hearing loss not associated with noise exposure,
- If you work in a noisy environment,
- If you engage in noisy activities or hobbies, and
- If you take medicines that place you at greater risk for hearing loss (for example, certain antibiotics, cancer treatment drugs, pain relievers, and more).
For more information on hearing tests, visit the following sites:
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Types of Test Used to Evaluate Hearing in Children and Adults
- American Academy of Audiology Fact Sheets
- CDC/NIOSH: Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention
- CDC/NIOSH: Inquiring Ears Want to Know
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: Hearing Loss
- NIH: Do You Need a Hearing Test?
Exposure to noise can increase stress, anxiety, loss of sleep, and fatigue.
- Heart Disease
Noise can also cause elevated blood pressure, heart disease, and increased heart rate.
- Damage to the Developing Baby During Pregnancy
Excessive noise during pregnancy may damage the newborn’s hearing.
- Learning and Language
Noisy homes and environments can interfere with learning and language development in children. Even a mild hearing loss can harm a child’s ability to speak, learn, and interact with others.
- Isolation and Depression
Untreated hearing loss, especially in older adults, can lead to
- social isolation
- falls (leading to injury)
- inability to work or travel
- reduced physical activity.