HOUSTON (April 12, 2011) – At one point, everyone has experienced hearing phantom noises. While some may experience a soft buzzing, others might feel like a Salvation Army bell ringer has taken over their ears. That noise, ringing or other sound is called tinnitus.
The sound usually lasts only a few minutes; however, tinnitus that does not go away can signify hearing damage.
Hearing loss is more common with age, but people are unwittingly destroying their hearing prematurely by exposing themselves to loud music and sounds.
“I’m seeing more and more young adults in their 20s and 30s with hearing loss,” said Susan Eicher, MD, chief of otolaryngology, Ben Taub General Hospital.
Dr. Eicher sees people harming their hearing every time she visits the gym, where she gives unsolicited advice to many patrons who listen to their music at ear splitting volumes.
“I understand people like to get into their workout with music, but they don’t understand they are harming their hearing. Once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed,” says Eicher.
Tinnitus may be the first sign of hearing loss. The inner ear has tiny, delicate hair outer cells that can be damaged permanently by loud noise exposure. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone,” says Eicher.
Eicher advises everyone, regardless of age, to avoid using earphones of any type. However, if it is necessary to use them, keep the volume at a modest level.
“If parents can hear their child’s music from across the room, it’s too loud,” Eicher said. “It only takes an hour of exposure of high decibels to ruin hearing.”
Signs of potential hearing loss include:
• Difficulty understanding what people are saying
• Turning the television volume up