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What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. Each year, an estimated 22 million U.S. workers encounter noise exposures loud enough to be potentially hazardous. In addition to hearing loss and other hearing disorders, prolonged exposure to noise can increase cardiovascular health risks, affect workers' quality of life and carry a high economic price to society.

Noise-induced hearing loss happens as a result of hearing harmful noise, sounds that are incredibly loud, or noise that lasts for hours on end. With noise-induced hearing loss, the tiny hair cells in the cochlea, a fluid-filled organ, that send electrical impulses to the brain are injured. Once these tiny hair cells are damaged, they cannot be treated nor will they grow back.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the preeminent diagnosis for the US soldiers in Afghanistan, according to the Deafness Research Foundation. In fact, it’s thought that more than 65 percent of war veterans from Afghanistan have hearing damage -- and many do not know it.  Also, World War II veterans have an alarming incidence of hearing loss. While more of our veterans and military personnel are surviving war, they are suffering long-term from problems such as hearing loss that is direct result of hazardous noise exposure.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a preventable type of hearing loss. It occurs when either a sudden, loud noise or long-term exposure to noise damages the inner ear. The damage associated with noise-induced hearing loss is usually permanent.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.