Acoustic trauma

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Acoustic trauma

Definition

Acoustic trauma is injury to the hearing mechanisms within the inner ear, caused by excessively loud noise.

Alternative Names

Injury - inner ear; Trauma - inner ear; Ear injury

Causes

Acoustic trauma is a common cause of sensory hearing loss. Damage to the hearing mechanisms within the inner ear may result from an explosion near the ear, gunshots, or long exposure to loud noises (such as loud music or loud machinery).

Symptoms

  • Hearing loss
    • Usually partial and involving high-pitched sounds
    • May be slowly progressive
  • Noises, ringing in the ear (tinnitus)

Exams and Tests

A good indicator of acoustic trauma is a hearing loss that follows exposure to noise. Audiometry may determine the extent of the hearing loss.

Treatment

The hearing loss may not be able to be corrected. The goal of treatment is to heal the injury and protect the ear from further damage.

A hearing aid may help the person communicate. Coping skills such as lip reading can be learned.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Hearing loss may be permanent in the affected ear. Ear protection may prevent the hearing loss from worsening.

Possible Complications

Progressive hearing loss is the main complication of acoustic trauma.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms are suggestive of acoustic trauma, or any time that hearing loss occurs or worsens.

Prevention

Wear protective ear plugs or earmuffs to protect against damage from loud equipment. Be aware of risks connected with activities such as shooting guns, using chain saws, driving motorcycles, or driving snowmobiles or similar vehicles. Do not listen to loud music for long periods of time.

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