What Is Industrial Deafness

Industrial deafness is a type of hearing loss that is caused by industrial noise. Industrial noise is a term used to describe a noise that is pervading an environment and safety range. It’s more than just a sound that is irritating to you, as prolonged exposure can cause permanent hearing damage. Occupational and industrial noise is noise that is associated with a profession and can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Noise is hazardous to worker’s safety and health. Noise can also cause stress and raise blood pressure in addition to impairing hearing when exposed to noises of 85 decibels or over for the long term. IT can also cause work accidents by masking warning signals as well as hazards and getting in the way of workers’ ability to concentrate.

In cases of Industrial Hearing Loss, the inner ear becomes damaged as a result of exposure to intense sounds (noise). The inner ear has tufts on the cells which pick up noise and pass this information on to the brain for processing. They are like tiny hairs and can be compared with stands of grass in a field. The grass can withstand ordinary levels of wind and will stand up again when the wind has passed, but if the wind is too strong, the grass will blow down and not stand up again. Similarly, if the noise is too intense, the hairs in the inner ear will not stand up again and hearing loss will follow.

Causes of Industrial Deafness

Industrial deafness can be caused while working. You may be at risk for industrial deafness if: your working day is filled with intrusive noise, you have to raise your voice in order for other people to hear you at what is normally a conversational distance, you use power tools that make a lot of noise for more than 30 minutes a day, or if you work close to sounds of impact on a regular basis. Regular deafness can occur as part of aging, but industrial deafness, but people who work in environments were power tools are frequently used or loud noises occur are at risk for externally caused deafness. Sources of noise that go over 80 decibels will put you at risk for industrial deafness. There are four types of industrial deadness: tinnitus, acoustic trauma, permanent hearing loss, and temporary hearing loss. Extremely loud noises or exposure to constant noise can cause industrial deafness. Industries that can put you at risk for industrial deafness include construction, mining, engineering, electrical work and plumbing, factories, railway and transport workers, heavy machinery operators, the airline industry, agriculture, farm work, and more.

Symptoms of Industrial Deafness

  • Lack of hearing in one ear or both
  • Other people complain that you have the tv or the radio turned up too loud
  • Conversation is either difficult to hear or impossible
  • Trouble hearing someone on the other end of the telephone
  • A ringing or other sound in your ears such as buzzing (tinnitus)
  • Temporary or permanent lack of hearing
  • Difficulty hearing speech when there is background noise
  • Not being able to hear parts of or full sentences in conversation
  • Difficulty hearing sounds like “T”, “D” and “S”

Treatment for Industrial Deafness

If you have any sort of hearing loss or believe that you may have industrial deafness, see an ear, nose and throat doctor. They will help you determine if you have industrial deafness. If you cannot hear certain frequencies in life, you may have this condition. The doctor will ask you about your history and your work, and conduct an examination or refer you to another doctor who may do a sound test and conduct either sound therapy or fit you with a hearing aid.

Cochlear ear implant with accessories. Photo by Wellcome Images. CC-BY-4.0

If the inner ear is too damaged, your doctor may recommend that you get a cochlear implant. This type of implant will bypass the ear’s damaged portions and stimulate the auditory nerve that passes sound along to the brain. An implant will send the information along to the electrodes placed in the inner ear to help adults with hearing impairment or deafness hear, although it may take some time to get used to interpreting these signals as sound.

There isn’t much that can be done for someone with industrial hearing loss to reverse the damage once it has occurred. Try to prevent industrial deafness before it happens by using aural protective gear such as ear plugs and ear defenders to protect your ears from damaging sound.

What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, is a type of hearing loss. The cause of it usually is coming from the vestibulocochlear nerve, the inner ear, or the brain’s central processing centers. The severity of this type of hearing loss can range from mild to moderate to severe and completely deaf. Most types of sensorinueral hearing loss come from the cochlea’s hair cells in the organ of Cort. These hairs may have abnormalities that cause this type of hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

  • Babies may fail to respond to sounds
  • No baby babbling or baby noises
  • Sounds that are heard are quieter, less clear, distorted
  • Sounds of “s, f, and z” aren’t heard
  • High tones less audible
  • Tinnitus
  • Speech difficult to understand with background noise
  • Vertigo, dizziness, loss of balance
Cochlea cross section. Photo by   Oarih. CC BY-SA 3.0
Cochlea cross section. Photo by Oarih. CC BY-SA 3.0

Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

A lot of sensorineural hearing loss is because of the hair cells functioning poorly due to damage or abnormalities that occur from birth. External damaging causes can be infection and noise-induced trauma, or could be due to intrinsic abnormalities, such as genetics. Sensorineural hearing loss can also happen due to abnormalities that occur in the central auditory system of the brain, called central hearing impairment. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can also cause this type of hearing loss. Other causes include:

  • Head trauma
  • Autoimmune inner ear disease
  • A virus
  • Disease
  • Loud noise exposure
  • Aging
  • Inner ear malformation
  • Tumors
  • Otosclerosis (hereditary disorder where bone growth forms around middle ear bone, preventing vibration stimulated by sound)
  • Ménière’s disease
  • Genes
  • Illnesses
  • Drugs or medications that are hearing-toxic
  • Autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Cogan’s syndrome, and more
  • Auditory portions of brain

Treatment of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Diagnosis of SNHL is done by going to a doctor, who will note medical history, do an ear exam, and ask about hearing problems in your family history. A head CT scan or MRI may be conducted, as well as an EEG test for hearing. Researchers believe that high doses of vitamins A, C, E, and magnesium taken an hour before exposure to loud noise and continued as treatment can prevent noise-induced hearing loss on a permanent basis.

Treatment depends on the type of sensorineural hearing loss. Studies are currently being done on how gene therapy and stem cells can be used to regenerate hair cells but are not available yet. Hearing aids can amplify sounds and overcome hearing loss in that range, as can cochlear implants to directly stimulate the cochlear nerves. Idebenone with vitamin E may delay or reverse hearing loss but is currently categorized as experimental. Immediate hearing loss treated within 24 hours with steroids can be reversed, according to audiologist and ENTs.

Emergency surgery may work when it comes to sensorineurral hearing loss from head trauma or air pressure changes. Several types of hearing loss are treated with drug therapy and long or short term corticosteroids. Ménière’s disease may be treated medically. If hearing loss is minor, hearing may be saved in half of cases by undergoing hearing preservation surgery.

What is Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss is a type of hearing loss. It is caused by a problem with either the ear canal, eardrum, or the middle ear. These problems involve difficulty in conducting sound waves and carrying them to the inner ear. These issues can occur anywhere along the way to the inner ear, from the outer ear to the tympanic membrane or eardrum to the middle ear. It may occur in conjunction with sensorineural hearing loss or on its own. Conductive Hearing Loss may be caused by a variety of issues, from an infection in the ear to fluid, objects, trauma, tumors, or wax build up in the ear.

conductive hearing loss
Human ear anatomy with detailed diagram. Photo by Iain. CC BY-SA 3.0

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

In the external ear:

  • Cerumen(ear wax)
  • Ear infections
  • A foreign object in the external auditory canal
  • Tumor in ear canal
  • Exostoses
  • Congenital or Choanal atresia
  • Swimmer’s ear

In the Tympanic Membrane:

  • Perforation
  • Retraction
  • Membrane tension due to different pressures

In the Middle Ear:

  • Fluid accumulation
  • Ear infections
  • Blocking of the eustachian tube
  • Allergies
  • Tumors
  • Increased pressure
  • Acule otitis media
  • Serous otitis media
  • Cholesteatoma
  • Otosclerosis
  • Middle ear tumor
  • Temporal bone trauma

In the Inner Ear:

  • Superior canal dehiscence
  • Otosclerosis

Symptoms of Conductive Hearing Loss

Symptoms of severe hearing loss can appear singularly or together. People who are experiencing hearing loss often withdraw from their friends and family and stop going out or doing things like they were before because they are embarrassed and don’t want to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves and withdraw instead to avoid feeling that way. They are often nervous that they will not be able to hear the conversation and answer in the wrong way or have to pretend like they know what is going on, which makes them feel foolish. You may be having trouble hearing conversations, with sounds being muffled and fading out. If you believe that you are suffering from Conductive Hearing Loss or any type of hearing loss or these symptoms, go see your primary care physician to get a diagnosis, seek treatment, and fix the problem. You don’t have to live with Conductive Hearing Loss.

Treatment for Conductive Hearing Loss

Before treatment, your doctor may order an audiogram, a type of hearing test designed to help him diagnose your condition.

Treatment for conductive hearing loss changes depending on what is causing the conductive hearing loss. Hearing aids may be a possible treatment if deformation of ear structures cannot be fixed. When there is an infection, medications that are antibiotic or antifungal in nature may be prescribed to you. If it is from head trauma, then getting surgery may be an option for you. Cochlear implants can stimulate cochlear nerves as well and may help to fix conductive hearing loss. Stem cell and gene therapy hair cell regeneration may be a possibility in the future but is not yet medically feasible. However, studies are being done. A surgically implanted osseointegrated device may be implanted to help treat Conductive Hearing Loss as well.

The Principal Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be developed as a result of many different causes. Some can be treated with medicine or surgery, and some are not reversible. It depends on the disease and the progress. The three types of hearing loss are mainly conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is caused by issues with the ear canal, drum, or middle ear and little bones, known as the malleus, incus, and the stapes. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs from problems related to the inner ear, which have to do with nerve-related hearing loss. Finally, mixed hearing loss is due to a combination of suffering from conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, with damage located in either the outer, middle, or inner ear, or the auditory nerve.

hearing loss

General Causes of Hearing Loss

The way we hear is by converting sound wave vibrations that enter the structures inside the ear are converted into nerve signals, which the brain then translated into sound. Sound waves go through the outer ear and vibrate at the eardrum, and the middle ear’s three small bones amplify vibrations that travel to the inner ear and pass through the fluid in the cochlea. The nerve cells in the cochlea have hairs that translate the vibrations into electrical signals that transmit to the brain, which interpret them as sound. Hearing damage is caused when these hairs or the mechanisms of the ear get damaged and are unable to send those signals to the brain effectively.

The most common causes of hearing loss in adults are noise and age. Noise induced hearing loss affects everyone, no matter how old you are, but commonly develops slowly over the years. Noise from work, recreational activities, or home chores can cause hearing damage on a gradual basis. Age-related hearing loss is also called presbycusis, when the inner ear’s nerves and cells change. This is the most common cause of hearing loss. The range of hearing loss varies, but is permanent and irreversible.

General causes of hearing loss can occur by way of:

  • Damage to the inner ear
  • Build up of earwax
  • An ear infection
  • Ruptured eardrum, also known as tympanic membrane perforation(loud noise, pressure changes, infection, and objects can all cause the eardrum to rupture)
  • Aging
  • Heredity
  • Occupational noises
  • Recreational noises
  • Medications
  • Illnesses such as meningitis or illnesses that cause high fever
  • Head injuries, injury to the ear
  • Fluid build up
  • Otosclerosis
  • Acoustic neuroma, noncancerous tumors of the hearing nerve
  • Ménière’s disease (can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss)
  • Benign growths, like exostoses, osteomas, and glomus tumors.that block the ear canal to cause hearing loss
  • Anything that interrupts the blood flow to the inner ear or brain areas that control hearing, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or stroke
  • Autoimmune hearing loss, such as caused by an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis.

Causes and Treatment for Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss may be caused by a variety of factors. This can include allergies, benign tumors, impacted earwax, a perforated eardrum, ear canal infection, poor function of the Eustachian tube, a foreign body in the ear, otosclerosis, ear infections, middle ear fluid due to colds, or malformation of the middle ear structures, outer ear, or ear canal.

Treatment for conductive hearing loss may include surgery or even a bone conduction hearing aid. Surgery is often a treatment for congenital absence, head trauma, or for dysfunction or malformation of the middle ear structure.  Some patients may receive a surgically implanted osseintegrated hearing device or a hearing aid, depending on how their hearing nerve has been affected. When this type of hearing loss occurs due to infection, medication that is antibiotic or antifungal may be prescribed to relieve symptoms.

Causes and Treatment for Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural Hearing Loss may be caused by any number of sources. SNHL can be caused by a virus, a disease, head trauma, exposure to loud noise, hereditary hearing loss, aging, Ménière’s disease, malformation of the inner ear, autoimmune inner ear diseases, otosclerosis, or tumors.

It can be treated by medical therapy using corticosteroids in the case of acoustic trauma or sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or emergency surgery from head trauma or air pressure changes causing inner ear fluid compartment rupturing/leaking. Bilateral progressive hearing loss is also managed with corticosteroids and drug therapy in the long term. Fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss is often treated with diuretics, a low sodium diet, and corticosteroids. Sensorineural hearing loss due to tumors is treated with surgery and irradiation, with hearing saved in half of those who undergo hearing prevention surgery. Sensorineural hearing loss due to disease of the central nervous system may do well with medical management of the disease affecting the central nervous system. Irreversible sensorienural hearing loss is the most common form of this type of hearing loss, and is treated with either hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Causes and Treatment for Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss happens when there is damage to the outer/middle ear as well as the inner ear and the cochlear or auditory nerve, and is a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Causes of mixed hearing loss include: a buildup of ear wax in the ear, infections,  illnesses, hearing-toxic drugs, genetic/hereditary hearing loss, aging, head trauma, malformation or damage to the inner ear, loud noise exposure, fluid in the middle ear, allergies, and a perforated or a ruptured ear drum.

Treatment for mixed hearing loss include: medical or surgical treatment, or hearing aids.

A Blog For The Hard Of Hearing