Acoustic trauma: Impact of Loud Noises on your Ears

Hany Ghonaim

Written by Francis L’Africain,

ODYO Blog _ Acoustic trauma

Noise takes part in our everyday life. It really is everywhere: at home and at work, in the streets, in concerts and sports events. After a while, all this noise impacts our ears. You probably already heard about that. But did you know brief noise can also cause ear damages?

What is an Acoustic Trauma?

Acoustic trauma is an auditory damage caused by a really loud yet brief sound.

Many factors can influence the severity of the auditory impairment. Indeed, shorter sounds like impulses and blasts create more damage than longer noises, but less loud. Moreover, when a noise is loud, it does not have to be as long to cause hearing loss.

Some people have a greater risk of being exposed to loud noises because of their profession and/or recreational activities. Here is some of them:

  • Workers exposed to noise at work
  • Call center employees
  • Hunters
  • Military  

A loud sound can come from machinery in a factory, an explosion sound, a rifle shot, a sudden noise in a headset, etc.

Depending on the loudness, hairy cells from the inner ear can be damaged or destroyed. A lot of the time, both ears are not affected the exact same way. In combination with other factors, this explains why both ears are not necessarily affected in the same way by noise. Indeed, if a source of noise comes from the right (e.g.: the impact occurs on the right), then the right ear will be more affected than the left.

Other symptoms occur after an acoustic trauma:

  • Tinnitus
  • Aural fullness or pressure in the ear
  • Dizziness
  • Sound intolerance

Hunters, Soldiers, and their Particularities

Hunters are a population at greater risk to suffer from acoustic trauma if they do not use hearing protectors. Indeed, the noises to which they are exposed are loud impact noises (about 120-130 dB). Exposure to such noises is therefore very harmful. 

Also, hunters mostly develop asymmetric hearing loss, so more in one ear than the other. Indeed, the shooters who support their weapon on the right will have a greater loss in the left ear. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is because of the orientation of the head, with the left ear then placed towards the muzzle of the barrel. 

However, there are hearing protection solutions to prevent this damage.

What do I do if I have an Acoustic Trauma?

Because acoustic trauma can be the cause of irreversible hearing loss, it is important that you talk to your physician as soon as possible. The doctor may offer you treatment to limit hearing loss, but it is also possible that the loss is irreversible. It is very likely that you will then consult an audiologist to find out the extent of the impairment. He may also suggest options to reduce the impact of your hearing loss on your daily life.

The best solution for treating acoustic trauma is prevention! When you are exposed to loud noise, reduce the volume and try to move away from it. If it is not possible, choose hearing protection, like earmuff or tailor-made earplugs.

Do you have questions? Do not hesitate to contact one of our experts at ODYO!

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