Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Exposure to loud noises can result in temporary and permanent hearing loss. Temporary hearing loss is now understood to be additive, similar to concussions, and accelerate rates of permanent hearing loss and age-related hearing loss. Permanent hearing loss is usually due to a rapid inner ear cell death due to reactive oxygen species. The NIH reports that about 15 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69 have high frequency hearing loss related to occupational or leisure activities. Further, the DoD identifies noise-induced hearing loss among the top disabilities associated with current conflicts.
Chemotherapy Induced Ototoxicity
Chemotherapy with cisplatin and other platinum based therapeutics saves many lives, but can have the unwanted side effect of ototoxicity (toxicity to the inner ear). Ototoxicity often causes permanent sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus, and disequilibrium or dizziness. High frequency hearing is generally affected first and extends into speech frequencies as chemotherapy treatment continues leading to permanent hearing loss that may require amplification with hearing aids. While treating the cancer is of primary importance, it is also important to preserve hearing, prevent tinnitus, and balance problems throughout treatment. In children, this can be particularly disabling, compromising language and cognitive development, learning ability and quality of life.
Tinnitus is the abnormal perception of sound in the absence of sound. This can take the form of ringing, buzzing, hissing, crickets, screeching, sirens, whistling, whooshing, roaring, pulsing, ocean waves, clicking, dial tones, and even music or fragments of songs. Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears and often accompanies noise induced hearing loss, age related hearing loss and ototoxicity. However, many people report tinnitus without noticeable hearing loss. The US Center for Disease Control estimates that over 50 million Americans experience some form of tinnitus, 16 million of which seek medical attention and approximately 2 million describe their symptoms as extreme and life altering. Tinnitus is also a common disability in veterans, especially in those who have had exposures to loud noise during their time in military service.