Acoustic trauma is injury to the inner ear caused by loud noise. Acoustic trauma can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. Wearing earplugs or ear protectors around loud noises can help prevent acoustic trauma.
The ear is divided into three areas: the outer, middle, and inner ear. Your ears not only enable you to hear, but play a role in balance as well. Your outer and middle ear is separated by your eardrum.
The medical term for eardrum is tympanic membrane. It prevents anything from entering your inner ear. Sound waves cause your eardrum to vibrate. The vibrations are translated into nerve messages that travel to your brain and are processed as sound.
The sound waves from loud noise may cause pressure changes that damage the hearing structures in the ear, including the eardrum. Injury may occur from sudden loud noises, such as explosions or gunfire. It may also result from exposure to loud noises over time, such as loud machinery, loud music, and even loud motorcycles.
Acoustic trauma may cause temporary or permanent hearing impairments. You may notice that your hearing is temporarily decreased after attending a loud concert. However, acoustic trauma can cause progressive and permanent hearing loss. You may lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds. This may make it more difficult to hear and understand others in noisy environments. Acoustic trauma can cause ringing in the ear, called tinnitus.
An audiologist can diagnose acoustic trauma by reviewing your history, examining your ear, and performing hearing tests.
Hearing aids may improve hearing for some people. Those with permanent hearing loss may learn compensation techniques, such as lip-reading or sign language to help them communicate with others.
You can help prevent acoustic trauma by wearing earplugs or ear protection when you are exposed to loud noises. There are many types of ear protection available. The appropriate equipment should be discussed with your doctor or audiologist.
Am I at Risk
People exposed to sudden or ongoing loud noises are at risk for acoustic trauma.