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Acoustic trauma

  • Definition
    • Acoustic trauma is injury to the hearing mechanisms in the inner ear. It is due to very 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 be caused by:

      • Explosion near the ear
      • Firing a gun near the ear
      • Long-term exposure to loud noises (such as loud music or machinery)
  • Symptoms
    • Symptoms include:

      • Partial hearing loss that most often involves exposure to high-pitched sounds. The hearing loss may slowly get worse.
      • Noises, ringing in the ear (tinnitus).
  • Exams and Tests
    • The health care provider will most often suspect acoustic trauma if hearing loss occurs after noise exposure. Audiometry may determine how much hearing has been lost.

  • Treatment
    • The hearing loss may not be treatable. The goal of treatment is to protect the ear from further damage. Eardrum repair may be needed.

      A hearing aid may help you communicate. You can also learn coping skills, such as lip reading.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • Hearing loss may be permanent in the affected ear. Wearing ear protection when around sources of loud sounds may prevent the hearing loss from getting worse.

  • Possible Complications
    • Progressive hearing loss is the main complication of acoustic trauma.

      Tinnitus (ear ringing) can also occur.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call your provider if:

      • You have symptoms of acoustic trauma
      • Hearing loss occurs or gets worse
  • Prevention
    • Take the following steps to help prevent hearing loss:

      • Wear protective ear plugs or earmuffs to prevent hearing damage from loud equipment.
      • Be aware of risks to your hearing from activities such as shooting guns, using chain saws, or driving motorcycles and snowmobiles.
      • DO NOT listen to loud music for long periods of time.
  • References
    • Arts HA. Sensorineural hearing loss in adults. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 150.

      Lonsbury-Martin BL, Martin GK. Noise-induced hearing loss. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 152.

      O'Handley JG, Tobin EJ, Shah AR. Otorhinolaryngology In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 18.