July 2nd, 2014 | General | by Andreas Seelisch

What Are the Common Causes of Acoustic Trauma?

Acoustic trauma occurs from sudden or prolonged exposure to sounds of 85 dB or higher. It results in the temporary or permanent loss of hearing. Long-term exposure to noise in our environment has led to an increase in acoustic trauma.

Acoustic Trauma

Although chronic exposure to noise is more commonly associated with acoustic trauma, in many cases, individuals are exposed to a sudden burst of sound that contributes to hearing loss.

This occurs in industrial environments, concerts, and festivals. Some degree of hearing damage has been observed in approximately 1.5 percent of young people. Personal music devices and loud sound systems are the main causes in this demographic.

Causes of Acoustic Trauma

Long periods of exposure to noise have become more prevalent than ever. As the level of noise pollution in many areas increases, so does the effects it has on your hearing.

Environments full of traffic, people, and the general hustle of everyday life, combined with the tendency to listen to television and music at elevated volumes, can all contribute to acoustic trauma.

Chronic exposure damages the hair cells located deep inside your ears. These cells can be permanently damaged, causing significant loss of hearing. Degeneration of the related nerve fibers exacerbates the trauma and leads to irreversible damage.

High-frequency sounds become difficult to detect upon the first signs of trauma. With long-term exposure, the lower frequency noises become difficult to hear. This makes understanding speech difficult.

Acoustic trauma can result from a number of causes:

  • Industrial workspaces – This includes common manufacturing and shipping plants. Loud noises arise from equipment and heavy machinery.
  • Loud music (live or recorded) – Noise levels of 110 dB and higher have been observed at live concerts. Personal devices and stereos can also contribute to acoustic trauma.
  • Injury – Common ear injuries include loud noises, head trauma, and drastic changes in the pressure of water or air.

Preventing Acoustic Trauma

For those who are frequently exposed to loud noise in workspaces, measures have been put in place to ensure their safety. Many workplaces have limits in place regarding the level and duration of noise exposure.

The use of protective equipment has also become a standard as a measure to protect hearing loss in employees, and reduce the cost of workers compensation claims in cases of hearing damage.

Acoustic trauma continues to rise among individuals in noisy work environments, as well as those exposed to loud music. Physical injury can lead to permanent hearing loss in many cases. Understanding the causes of acoustic trauma will help guide you in preventing future hearing loss.

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