Understanding Hearing Loss

As you age, some hearing loss is normal. But long-term exposure to loud noise can speed up the loss. You lose more than the ability to hear how loud a sound is. You also lose the ability to hear certain types of sounds. For example, you might not be able to hear some of the high-pitched sounds of a child's voice.

Graph showing normal and accelerated hearing loss. Normal hearing starts out high at early age and gradually declines after age 30. Accelerated hearing loss starts out high at early age and rapidly declines after age 30.

Normal Loss

Each of us is born with about 40,000 hair cells. They thin out naturally as we age. With the loss of hair cells comes hearing loss. This is called presbycusis. Most people don't notice normal hearing loss until their middle years. Others might not notice it until late in their lives. It's most often a slow and painless process.

Accelerated Loss

Exposure to loud noise may cause brief hearing loss and ringing in your ears called tinnitus. If your exposure was short, you may recover. But long-term exposure day after day can affect your hearing for life.

Noise Hurts More Than Your Hearing

Did you know that loud noises can affect your whole body? Loud noises can:

  • Raise blood pressure

  • Disrupt sleep patterns

  • Cause muscle strain

  • Harm digestion

Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Nelson, Gail A, MS, APRN, BC
Last Review Date: 8/24/2014
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