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What is Acoustic Trauma?

Diane Goettel
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Acoustic trauma is a kind of trauma or injury that affects a person's hearing. In many cases, the mechanisms in the inner ear are damaged or injured in some way and the most common cause of this trauma is unusually loud noise. The most common symptoms of acoustic trauma include ringing in the ears, which is also called tinnitus, and hearing loss. Hearing loss usually just affects part of one's hearing with the loss of the ability to hear sounds that are high-pitched. However, it is possible for the trauma to affect and damage other parts of the hearing register and may get worse over time.

The most common causes of acoustic trauma and damage the the hearing mechanisms within the inner ear include exposure to loud noises — especially exposure over a long period of time — and exposure to incredibly loud noises just once or few times. Incredibly loud noises may include gunshots and explosions. Hearing loss that is the result of exposure to noise over a long period of time may be the result of listening to loud music or being exposed to the noises of loud machinery.

Unfortunately, acoustic trauma is not always treatable. The best treatment for acoustic trauma is prevention and the preservation of the existing or remaining hearing. For people with severe hearing loss, hearing aids may be required. Sometimes people who lose most or all of their hearing will have to begin learning to lip read or to communicate via sign language.

Acoustic trauma can be prevented by wearing protective devices when exposed to loud noises. During loud concerts or while working with loud machinery, it is important to wear ear plugs or ear muffs that are specifically designed to block out or muffle loud noises. It is common for such forms of protective headgear to be required of workers performing certain kinds of jobs. Even people who have experienced some hearing loss can prevent further hearing loss by taking these kinds of precautions.

In order to assess the extent of acoustic trauma, it is important to consult a doctor. A doctor will be able to perform tests to assess the level of trauma and, when necessary, to outfit patients with hearing aids. A doctor can also instruct patients in how to best use protective head gear in order to make sure that further acoustic trauma is avoided or at least kept to a minimum.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
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Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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