Harvard Men's Health Watch

Noise-induced hearing loss

Call it acoustic trauma or noise-induced hearing loss. By any name, it's not something the iPod generation wants to hear about. But since acoustic trauma is the most important preventable cause of permanent hearing loss, it's a message that should ring out clear (if not loud).

Now hear this

Noise-induced hearing loss is a product of modern life. It first surfaced during the industrial revolution, when workers were exposed to loud machinery for hours on end. Occupational exposure is still the most common cause of acoustic trauma, but recreational noise threatens to catch up. When this problem was first recognized, it was called boilermakers' disease because of the impaired hearing that plagued men who manufactured steam boilers. If present trends continue, though, it may someday be known as iPod Ear.

Although estimates vary, up to 28 million Americans have impaired hearing; for as many as a third, acoustic trauma is a significant contributor.

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