Acoustic trauma involves injury to the inner ear that is often due to exposure to a high-decibel noise. The injury can be linked to a single loud noise or exposure to a noise at a lower decibel over an extended period of time. Certain head injuries can cause acoustic trauma if the eardrum is ruptured or if other injures to the inner ear occur.
The eardrum is responsible for protecting the middle and inner ear as well as sending signals to the brain via small vibrations. When acoustic trauma occurs, it can impair the way in which these vibrations are handled, thus resulting to hearing loss. The sound being transmitted into the inner ear can cause a “threshold shift” that can lead to hearing loss.
Forms of acoustic trauma
If the doctor suspects that the symptoms of the individual indicate acoustic trauma, he/she will attempt to distinguish between trauma due to injury and trauma due to exposure to loud noises. The varying degrees of acoustic trauma also necessities different treatment measures.
Potential risk factors
Individuals who are at high risk for acoustic trauma usually include the following:
- Those who work in fields where boisterous industrial equipment is used for extended time.
- Working or living in areas where other high-intensity decibel sounds last for prolonged periods.
- Those who use gun ranges
- Regularly attending music concerts and other events involving high-decibel music
- Being exposed to extremely loud noises without proper gear such as ear plugs.
Individuals who have been exposed to decibels higher than 85 are at risk for acoustic trauma.
What are the indications?
The chief symptom of acoustic trauma is hearing loss. Initially, an individual starts to have a hard time perceiving the high-frequency sounds. This can be followed by trouble hearing sounds at lower frequencies. The doctor will assess the response of the individual to various sound frequencies to determine the degree of acoustic trauma.
A vital symptom that can indicate the start of acoustic trauma is tinnitus. This is a form of injury to the ear that causes a ringing or buzzing sound. Those who suffer from mild to moderate tinnitus are usually aware of this symptom when in a silent environment.
Technical hearing assistance
Remember that hearing loss can be treated, but not cured. The doctor might recommend this approach particularly with a hearing aid. The latest type of hearing aids known as cochlear implants can be used to manage loss of hearing from acoustic trauma.
Protection for the ears
The doctor is likely to recommend the use of earplugs or other devices that protects hearing. Take note that these are part of the personal protective equipment that employers must provide to their workers.
Oral steroid medications might be prescribed by the doctor. On the other hand, if hearing loss is present, the doctor will emphasize ear protection to prevent the issues from worsening.