Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Last Updated: May 3, 2019

Definition - What does Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) mean?

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a hearing disorder that consists of gradual, progressive loss of high-frequency hearing sensitivity over time—typically the result of exposure to excessive noise levels over a prolonged period.

Safeopedia explains Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent hearing impairment, which is the result of prolonged exposure to high levels of noise in the environment. One in ten American worker has hearing loss that affects their ability to understand normal speech. The most common cause of hearing loss is excessive noise exposure in the workplace.

Because of occupational risk of noise-induced hearing loss, there are government standards that regulate allowable noise exposure. As directed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in its Hearing Conservation Amendment of 1983, hearing conservation programs in noisy workplaces need to test noise levels annually, and employers are required to supply employees with hearing protectors if the noise in the working environment exceeds 90 dB during an eight-hour day. Hearing protection devices are used to decrease the intensity of sound that reaches the eardrum and are available in two forms: earplugs and earmuffs.

There are associated health risks with noise-induced hearing loss, which are tinnitus and reversible hearing loss, also called a temporary threshold shift.

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