Hearing Health facts

Noise and hearing loss

We are surrounded by noise in nearly all areas of modern life. People do not like loud noises or intense sounds. Our ears are delicate and complex structures that are easily damaged. We are exposed to noise at work, to traffic noise in the street and when we listen to music or go to night clubs or concerts where the volume is too loud.

A continuous noise level of 85 dB will result in hearing damage. This is the sound level of heavy road traffic. Compressed air hammers have a sound level of about 100 dB and rock concerts almost always reach 110-120 dB – the same sound intensity can easily be produced in headsets when you listen to your stereo. Not to mention the noise levels in many schools and kindergartens!

Noise exposure and intense sounds can cause two main types of hearing loss, namely temporary threshold shift and permanent threshold shift.

Temporary threshold shift is mostly experienced as a temporary dullness in your hearing after exposure to loud noises. Your hearing will subsequently recover – depending on how loud the noises have been and how long you have been exposed to them.

Permanent threshold shift is first experienced 48 hours after exposure to excessive noise. Permanent threshold shift can occur if you have been regularly exposed to excessive noise for long periods of time. It can also occur if you are exposed to very high sound levels for a short period of time. This type of hearing loss will normally continue to increase for up to five years after exposure to the noise.

Exposure to noise and high sound levels can also result in Tinnitus – a constant sound in your ears or head.  

What is a decibel, and what is the loudest sound I can listen to before it hurts my ears?                              

The decibel (abbreviated dB) is the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound. The decibel scale is a little odd because the human ear is incredibly sensitive. Your ears can hear everything from your fingertip brushing lightly over your skin to a loud jet engine. In terms of power, the sound of the jet engine is about 1,000,000,000,000 times more powerful than the smallest audible sound. That's a big difference!      

On the decibel scale, the smallest audible sound (near total silence) is 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. A sound 1,000 times more powerful than near total silence is 30 dB. Here are some common sounds and their decibel ratings:

    • Near total silence - 0 dB
    • A whisper - 15 dB
    • Normal conversation - 60 dB
    • A lawnmower - 90 dB
    • A car horn - 110 dB
    • A rock concert or a jet engine - 120 dB
    • A gunshot or firecracker - 140 dB

You know from your own experience that distance affects the intensity of sound -- if you are far away, the power is greatly diminished. All of the ratings above are taken while standing near the sound.       Any sound above 85 dB can cause hearing loss, and the loss is related both to the power of the sound as well as the length of exposure. You know that you are listening to an 85-dB sound if you have to raise your voice to be heard by somebody else. Eight hours of 90-dB sound can cause damage to your ears; any exposure to 140-dB sound causes immediate damage (and causes actual pain).

Consequences of hearing impairment

Untreated hearing loss may lead to numerous social and psychological problems. Some hearing-impaired people also experience physical problems because of their hearing loss.                              

Reactions differ from person to person, but most hearing-impaired people suffer some social, psychological and physical problems as a result of their hearing loss.                              

Surveys indicate that hearing-impaired people benefit socially and psychologically and improve their quality of life when their hearing loss is treated with proper hearing aids.

Ear Wax Build-up

One major problem with hearing is caused by a build-up of wax in the ear canal. Normally, the ear is a self cleaning mechanism. The skin grows outward from the eardrum to the outer canal. The fine hairs gently and constantly move dry particles of wax, and sloughed skin out of the canal. If not cleaned, the eardrum can become completely blocked thus resulting to reduce hearing & eventually cause permanent hearing damage. One cause of build-up of wax in the ear canal is the use of cotton swabs. The cotton swab is larger than the canal and many times you will be pushing wax deep into the canal, until it is completely blocked. The best way to clean an ear canal is to use a few drops of pure apple cider vinegar. Use a medicine dropper to place two or three drops in your ears, two or three times a week. You can also flush out the canal using warm water (make sure it won't burn) in a rubber syringe. If you have itching in your ear canal, you can use a few drops of baby oil once or two times a week to lubricate the canal. Do not remove ear wax with objects such as hair pins. You can damage your ear drum or scratch your ear canal and cause an infection. You should have your ears checked at least once every year either by your doctor or by a hearing specialist.

Fluid in MIddle Ear                                                   

Many individuals suffer with the build-up of fluid in the middle ear. Any excessive fluid normally drains out the eustachian tube. When the eustachian tube becomes blocked either by swelling or by accumulation of mucus or pus, small bones in the middle ear can be damaged, and can cause intense pain & can even rapture the eardrum.

Birth Defects / Diseases & Viruses                                                      

German measles or any other viral diseases that a woman contracts during her first 3 months of pregnancy may damage the hearing of her baby. Have your baby's hearing be tested if you suspect that he/she has a hearing impairment. Early care & training is very important for the child's development. Common childhood diseases such as measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever, or any high fever can leave permanent hearing impairment if not treated well.

Cold & Sinus Problems      

Colds, Sinus Problems, Allergies, Throat Inflammations, can lead to infections of the middle ear. It commonly strikes children. When infections of the nose or throat spreads to the middle ear, pus accumulate in the middle ear. This may cause pain and some hearing loss. If not treated, the small bones in the middle ear can become damaged and can cause severe hearing loss.

Old Age

Gradual loss of hearing commonly and naturally develops among people over the age of 65. About 10% of people who are more than 65 yrs. old, have hearing problems. They find it hard to hear conversations in noisy environments.
Injuries & Other Causes                        

Blows to the head, severe burns on the head and other head injuries can damage the outer, middle or inner ear and thus can cause hearing impairment. Reactions to certain drugs can also cause hearing impairment. Common symptoms associated with hearing impairment are ringing sounds in the ears & dizziness.


Benefits of a Hearing Aid

There will be an adjustment period while conforming to your hearing aid but almost immediately, you will notice significant improvement on your hearing.

  • Increased confidence in your hearing abilities thus will allow you to enjoy a better quality of life.
  • The ability to distinguish the location of sounds thus will allow you to avoid dangerous situations, such as oncoming traffic.
  • The ability to distinguish background noise from speech, improves when both ears are use equally.
  • With binaural amplification, the volume of the hearing aid can also be worn at a low setting. This helps prevent distortion and reduces the degree of background noise, thus will improve speech clarity and sound quality.
  • With binaural hearing, you can follow conversations in groups more easily. While in one-on-one conversations, you will not need to turn your head or to ask people to speak into your "good ear" thus will make business or social functions more enjoyable.                              
Hearing aids and assistive listening devices can help the vast majority of the population that experiences hearing impairment.
                        After you have seen your doctor, you may be referred to the following: an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat specialist), an audiologist or a hearing health specialist for comprehensive test of your hearing ability. If hearing is impaired in both ears, your hearing health professional may recommend that each ear be fitted with a hearing instrument. This type of prescription is known as "Binaural Fitting". In addition, studies have shown that even mild to moderate impairments can be improved significantly with a binaural fitting.
  Modern Styling

  With today's modern technology, hearing aid designs range from discreet custom-in-the ear models, slim, compact mini, and regular-sized behind-the-ear instruments. your hearing health professional will recommend the hearing aid style suited best to your impairment. Then you can enjoy hearing naturally.

Signs of Hearing

Are you experiencing a hearing loss? Take this simple test and find out if you need to have your hearing evaluated by a hearing professional.

  • Do you have any difficulty listening to conversations with family & friends at a restaurant?
  • Does your hearing condition cause arguments with members of your family?
  • Do you hear frequent jokes about your hearing ability?
  • Does your spouse often tell you that she/he have to repeat things for you?
  • Do you attend church services or other social events less often because of your hearing problem?
  • Do you find it necessary to turn up the volume on your T. V. or radio beyond a normal level?
  • Do you experience feelings of frustration when you converse with others, and do you have any difficulty hearing everything they say?                           

If you have answered "YES" to even one of the above questions, you may be experiencing a hearing loss. Have your ears checked by a hearing health professional immediately!

Hearing impairments is one of among health issues that is easily ignored or neglected. It is usually a gradual process & you don't even realize how much you are loosing. Never the less, hearing impairment can and will affect every aspect of your life just as other health problems. In the U.S. alone, 25 million individuals are approximately affected to some degree by hearing impairment. Unfortunately only few numbers of these people seek help to improve the quality of their hearing.

The need potential for hearing instruments in Asia is high.

  • 6 - 10% of Asia's population between the ages of 15 and 75 experience at least one form of hearing problem
  • Of this population, only approximately 1.1% have been fitted with hearing instruments
  • The population in Asia is aging. Hearing loss comes with age, but the desire for a better quality of life, partly through sustained hearing capability retention, exists.

Comparative Hearing Health Statistics

Total Population
245 million
3 billion
Population with             hearing problem
25.8 million
180 million
Population fitted with             hearing instruments(%)
5.8 million (22.5%)
2 million (1.1%)
Hearing instruments sold             each year(%)
1.2 million (4.7%)
8.2 million (4.7%)

Other causes

      A few types of medication may damage your hearing ability. These will, in general, only be prescribed when absolutely necessary.

      It is always a good idea to read the declaration on the medication thoroughly and ask your family doctor for advice if such types of medication are prescribed.

The jaw
      Some dental surgeons believe that there is a connection between tinnitus and a dysfunction of the joint connecting the jaw to the bone under the ear – the so-called temporomandibular joint.

      Only in a few cases is there a specific factor connected to the occurrence of tinnitus. Conditions that might cause tinnitus include the following:

  • Blows to your head

  • Large doses of certain drugs such as aspirin

  • Loud or persistent noise exposure

  • Stress

  • Compacted ear wax

If you avoid these conditions the risk of getting tinnitus is much smaller. Use hearing protectors or earplugs if you are in a noisy workplace or often go to concerts with loud and continuous music.

Other reasons:

  • Age

  • Meniéré´s Disease

  • Head trauma

  • Perilymp fistula (a hole in the inner ear which allows fluid to escape)

  • Certain types of tumors

Cigarette smoking and hearing loss

Cigarette smoking may damage your hearing ability. Smokers are nearly 70 per cent more likely than nonsmokers to suffer hearing loss. The risk of becoming hearing-impaired often increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. In many cases, hearing problems increase proportionately with the intensity and duration of exposure to cigarette smoke. In general, smokers are 1.69 times more likely to damage their hearing ability. Heavy smokers are more than 1.30 times as likely to have a hearing loss in all age groups but the oldest. The greater prevalence of hearing loss among smokers remains after adjusting for factors such as occupational noise exposure, age and lifestyle. The above-mentioned facts form the conclusion of an American study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, June 1998.

According to the study, 25.9 per cent of smokers in the youngest age group - 48 to 59 years of age – were suffering from hearing loss compared to 16.1 per cent among non-smokers. 22.7 per cent of ex-smokers were suffering from hearing loss. The same trend was found in the older age groups.

Passive smoking may also increase the risk of becoming hearing-impaired. The study found that non-smokers living with a smoker were 1.94 times more likely to suffer from hearing problems than those who were not living with a smoker.

The study included 3,753 people aged between 48 and 92. Of these, 46 per cent were non-smokers, 39.3 per cent were ex-smokers and 14.7 per cent were current smokers. The current smokers smoked 17.5 cigarettes per day on average.

Solvents worsen hearing ability

Noise is not the only threat to hearing in a person’s working life. A recent report shows that exposure to the solvent styrene can lead to hearing loss. Workers in the plastic industry, who work with styrene in noisy surroundings have a higher risk of suffering hearing loss than people exposed only to excessive noise.

The report was written by the National Institute for Working Life in Sweden. The study involved 300 people from 14 different work places. Approximately 150 worked in the plastic industry.

The results were conclusive. The people who had worked with styrene had significantly poorer hearing than those who had not.

According to the institute, the conclusions are consistent with studies from other European countries. Auris, a Swedish magazine for hearing-impaired people, has referred to a Danish survey from the 1980s which showed that hearing loss was 10 per cent more common among people who had worked with solvents for more than five years.

It is not exactly clear how styrene can damage hearing ability, but animal experiments have shown that organic solvents harm the minute hair cells in the inner ear.


Causes of Hearing Loss

Drugs Some drugs & antibiotics can damage the function of hair cells or the auditory nerve. Drugs which can cause damage to the hairlike cells of the cochlea are quinine, aminoglycerides, diuretics, aspirin in large doses and some cancer drugs.

Rupture Rupture of the eardrum can be caused by a blow to the ear, extreme air pressure changes associated with flying or scuba diving, a sharp foreign object used to clean the ears, or from pressure caused by fluid from a middle ear infection. Fever: High fever for a prolonged period of time can harm the inner ear structure.

Injuries Head injuries which cause a reduced blood supply can harm the inner ear structure.