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Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

What is NIHL?

  • NIHL is a common occupational injury caused by exposure to loud noises.
  • It can happen gradually over time or from a single loud event.
  • Repeated exposure to loud sounds can lead to permanent inner ear damage.

Causes of NIHL:

  1. Gradual Exposure:
    • Repeated exposure to loud noise at work or home (e.g., a sailor on a ship exposed to loud engine noise).
  2. Single Loud Event:
    • Sudden exposure to high-intensity noise (e.g., gunfire, explosions).

Impact of NIHL:

  • People may not notice their hearing loss in quiet environments.
  • In noisy settings, such as combat or near loud vehicles, hearing difficulties become apparent.
  • This can affect communication and mission readiness.

Prevalence and Risk Factors


  • About 30 million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels at work.
  • Despite protective measures, many military personnel still suffer from NIHL.

Risk Factors:

  1. Noisy Work Environments:
    • Loud machinery, vehicles, and weapons.
  2. Military Operations:
    • Exposure to noise during combat and training.
  3. Improper Use of Hearing Protection:
    • Not using protective devices correctly or consistently.
  4. Inadequate Noise Control:
    • Insufficient standards for noise control in military equipment.
  5. Noisy Hobbies:
    • Activities like hunting, concerts, gaming, woodworking, sports events, and using loud personal devices.


Protecting your hearing is crucial to prevent NIHL. Use appropriate hearing protection and be mindful of noise exposure both at work and in your personal life.


Quick Fact


Unprotected, repeated exposure to loud sounds over a period of time can cause permanent inner ear damage.

About Us

The Hearing Center of Excellence fosters and promotes the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, rehabilitation and research of hearing loss and auditory injury. It supports the development, exchange and adoption of best practices, research, measures of effectiveness and clinical care guidelines to reduce the prevalence and cost of hearing loss and tinnitus among Warriors and Veterans. Read more

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