DefinitionAcoustic trauma is injury to the hearing mechanisms in the inner ear due to very loud noise.
Alternative NamesInjury - inner ear; Trauma - inner ear; Ear injury
Causes, incidence, and risk factorsAcoustic trauma is a common cause of sensory hearing loss. Damage to the hearing mechanisms within the inner ear may be caused by:An explosion near the earGunshotsLong-term exposure to loud noises (such as loud music or machinery)
Usually partial and involving high-pitched soundsMay slowly get worseNoises, ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
Signs and testsThe health care provider will usually suspect acoustic trauma if hearing loss occurs after noise exposure. Audiometry may determine how much hearing has been lost.
TreatmentThe hearing loss may not be treatable. The goal of treatment is to protect the ear from further damage. Eardrum repair may be needed.A hearing aid may help you communicate. You can learn coping skills, such as lip reading.
Expectations (prognosis)Hearing loss may be permanent in the affected ear. Ear protection may prevent the hearing loss from getting worse.
ComplicationsProgressive hearing loss is the main complication of acoustic trauma.Tinnitus (ear ringing) can also occur.
Calling your health care providerCall for an appointment with your health care provider if:You have symptoms of acoustic traumaHearing loss occurs or gets worse
PreventionWear protective ear plugs or earmuffs to protect against damage from loud equipment.Be aware of risks connected with activities such as shooting guns, using chain saws, or driving motorcycles or snowmobiles.Do not listen to loud music for long periods of time.
ReferencesLonsbury-Martin BL, Martin GK. Noise-induced hearing loss. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 151.O’Handley JG, Tobin EJ, Shah AR. Otorhinolaryngology. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 19.