MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Twelve million Americans suffer from noise-induced hearing loss, which results from prolonged exposure to noise. For that reason, audiologists at WVU Healthcare and across the country are encouraging everyone to protect their hearing.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the microscopic hair cells, or cilia, which are found in the inner ear. Cilia are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear into electrical signals that travel to the brain,” Mary Archer, Au.D., clinical audiologist at WVU Healthcare, said. “Once damaged, our hair cells don’t grow back, and they cannot be repaired or grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.”

The loudness of sound is measured in decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 dB, such as concerts, sporting events, lawnmowers, fireworks and MP3 players at full volume. A brief exposure to a very intense sound, such as a gun shot near the ear, can also damage your hearing.

According to Dr. Archer, an environment is too loud and considered dangerous if you have to shout over background noise to be heard, if it is painful to your ears or if it makes your ears ring during and after exposure.

“There are several things you can do to protect your hearing. For example, if you’re going to be exposed to sounds louder than 85 dB for 30 minutes or more, wear hearing protection. When you’re listening to the radio, TV, MP3 player or anything through ear buds or headphones, turn down the volume. And, if possible, walk away from loud noises,” she said.

Hearing loss not only affects a person’s ability to understand speech, but it also has a negative impact on his or her social and emotional well being. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur gradually over time. People often do not realize they are changing the way they live to make up for the disability.

Those who suspect they may have hearing loss should see an audiologist for a hearing test to determine the type and severity of hearing loss.

Protect Your Hearing Month is a project of the American Academy of Audiology and Quota International, an international service organization.

For more information on audiology services at WVU Healthcare see

For more information: Angela Jones, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
asj: 09-29-10