You May Be Predisposed to Developing NIHL
“Nothing can compare to protecting the hearing you have and preventing hearing loss in the first place.”
This quote from Rick Friedman, professor of otolaryngology and neurosurgery at Keck School of Medicine of USC appears along with the results of a new genome-wide association study on noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) he authored recently. The study uncovered evidence that some people may be more likely to develop NIHL than others due to a genetic predisposition to the condition. More specifically, Friedman and his team found that the Nox3 gene, which resides primarily in the inner ear, is very likely a marker indicating someone is at greater risk of losing their hearing due to exposure to loud noises (typically defined as 85 decibels or louder).
Why finding a genetic link is important
While further study is needed before official recommendations can be made, knowing that some of us are more susceptible to NIHL due to biology is an important step forward in the understanding and prevention of hearing loss. Once enough research has been amassed to form definitive conclusions, and testing recommendations made, guidelines for better protecting those found to be at risk will likely follow.
Protecting your hearing from noise exposure is a good idea for everyone, regardless of biological predisposition. Here are a few tried-and-true suggestions for avoiding NIHL in common situations:
- Wear earplugs
- Sit or stand well away from speakers
- Attend outdoors if possible for less exposure to concentrated sound
- Always wear any OSHA-mandated hearing protection (earplugs, earmuffs, or both) provided or get your own
- Limit your exposure to 85 dB or louder tools and equipment as much as possible
- Have your hearing tested annually
- Don’t listen to music set to the maximum capacity of your music player when listening through earbuds or headphones
- Limit the amount of time you listen through earbuds or headphones to no more than an hour at a time without a break
- Wear noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds so you don’t have to crank your music up too loud to hear it over background noise
- Wear appropriate hearing protection when working with loud household tools (lawnmowers, drills) or engaging in activities that put hearing at risk (shooting range, fireworks displays)
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