New Year’s Eve is a time of celebration and renewal. It’s also a time for loud parties and fireworks, which can inflict hearing damage. New Year’s Eve can be a particularly troublesome time when it comes to noise, but it’s possible to safeguard the hearing of yourself and your family without missing out on the fun.
NIHL: Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is any kind of hearing loss that happens because of noise exposure. This exposure can be a traumatic one-time event, or several exposures over a long period of time. When Virginia ENT tests for hearing loss, we often find the patient has noise exposure in their history -- from work, hobbies, or some other source.
Many patients with noise induced hearing loss come into our office reporting a ringing sensation in the ears. Other symptoms include a feeling of fullness or “cotton in the ears” sensation. In the audiograms for such patients, there is a notch that occurs from the 2000 to 6000 hertz range. This is a common indicator of noise-induced hearing loss.
Why Worry About Noise Exposure on New Year’s Eve?
Should you be worried about hearing loss on New Year’s Eve? It depends on the celebration. Party situations, noisemakers, fireworks and loud music can all create temporary hearing loss, or even permanent damage to the ear. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to prevent temporary or permanent hearing loss during the holiday:
- Distance. One of the easiest ways to combat hearing loss is to put distance between yourself and noise. Because of the way it travels through air, sound puts less pressure on your ear the further away you are. Distance yourself from speakers, fireworks, noisemakers, and other loud sounds.
- Hearing protection. If you’re the DJ at the big new year’s party, or have a front row seat at the fireworks display, wearing protective headphones or earplugs is critical. Fireworks in particular are likely to be traumatic noise experiences, and even one incident can cause temporary or permanent hear loss.
If you’re taking your child to the fireworks display, pick up small-size earplugs online or at a sporting goods store beforehand. They are also available from Virginia ENT.
How Loud is Too Loud?
When do you know the noise level is high enough to cause hearing loss? For most recreational activities, where no one is measuring the sound, use this rule of thumb: if you (or someone near you) must speak up in order to be heard, the environment may be loud enough to damage your ears. Distance yourself from the source of the noise or use hearing protection. It’s better to be safe than sorry -- noise can cause nerve damage to the inner ear, causing permanent hearing loss.
One final note: having hearing loss is no guarantee against further hearing loss. Don’t think that you can forego hearing protection just because you already have noise-induced hearing loss. Without protection, you can further damage your hearing.