Noise Is a Leading Cause of Hearing Loss
Rabinowitz advises that a doctor should confirm the cause of any hearing
loss. "There are other things that can cause hearing loss, such as a growth
or certain diseases," says Rabinowitz, an assistant professor of medicine
at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
"Education can come from a lot of venues, but having it come from the
personal physician adds credibility and an opportunity to ask questions."
says Amy Donahue, PhD, chief of the hearing and balance section of the National
Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
One source of noise is firearms, and a study by researchers at the
University of Wisconsin found that the use of recreational firearms -- guns
used for hunting and target shooting -- is linked to hearing loss. Lead
researcher Karen J. Cruickshanks, PhD, and study author David M. Nondahl, MS,
report in the Archives of Family Medicine that men who engage in these
activities are twice as likely to experience hearing loss.
"I was surprised at the number of target shooters who did not wear
hearing protection," Nondahl tells WebMD. "I can't imagine firing 50 to
100 rounds in an hour without [it]. The noise is extremely intense."
Nondahl is a biostatistician with The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study and an
associate researcher at the University of Wisconsin Medical School.
Nondahl and his colleagues found in their study of about 1,500 men, between
the ages of 43 and 84, that over a third of the target shooters never wore
hearing protection while shooting during the past year.
Most hunters (95%) don't wear any protection, either, but the authors point
out that hunters need to be able to hear their prey and communicate with their
hunting partners. But the authors point out that level-dependent earplugs have
been shown to protect the ears while allowing communication.
In the Wisconsin study, both hunters and target shooters had an increased
risk of high-frequency hearing loss. And, says Nondahl, the loss was severe in
half of the men.
"This study provides further evidence that firearms are a factor in
noise-induced hearing loss. Whether you are a hunter or practice shooting at a
firing range, you should wear hearing protectors at all times," says
Donahue, who reviewed the study for WebMD. "Each exposure [to the intense
noise] creates more damage, and the effects are cumulative over time. "
loss is the second most common form of acquired deafness, after
If you have trouble
hearing someone when they speak in a whisper, or difficulty hearing the
television or radio, a professional hearing test may be in
Hearing loss can be
prevented or slowed by discontinuing whatever activity causes it. One activity
that may damage hearing is shooting firearms for sport without wearing ear