Noise Induced Hearing Loss: Costs and Solutions

man talking to doctor about hearing loss

Hearing Loss Costs Billions Per Year

Tinnitus is often described as the perception of noise independent of any external source of sound. With subjective tinnitus, the individual is the only person able to perceive the noise, which may present as hissing, buzzing, or ringing. In such cases, noise can be perceived in one or both ears, as coming from inside the head, or located around the head with no direction apparent.

In other cases, noise may seem to originate from within the individual's body; this is a rare condition known as objective tinnitus and is usually prompted by a vascular disorder or spasmodic muscle movement. Tinnitus caused or influenced by sensory input from the body is also known as somatic tinnitus.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, primary tinnitus may present with hearing loss or with no identifiable cause. Secondary tinnitus has a known and diagnosed cause. Pulsatile tinnitus is generally recognized as a noise that is rhythmic like a heartbeat.

Some individuals experience tinnitus seldom enough or at such a low level that it can be classed as "no bothersome", in which case tinnitus has only a small impact on quality of life. In other cases, tinnitus may classed as "bothersome", meaning it is severe enough to cause significant disruption to quality of life.

In general, there is no cure for tinnitus, but those who have "bothersome" tinnitus in addition to hearing loss can often find some relief with the use of a hearing aid combined with external sound stimuli, such as a metronome, white noise, or music delivered through wearable or non-wearable devices.

An audiologist can help diagnose and make recommendations for the mitigation of tinnitus side effects. If necessary, hearing aids can be fitted for those who present both with tinnitus and hearing loss, to help provide clearer hearing of real noise and dampen down the effects of perceived noise.

The annual cost of unaddressed hearing loss totals somewhere between $750 – $790 billion annually. However, prevention measures and solutions do exist.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the annual cost of unaddressed hearing loss totals somewhere between $750 – $790 billion annually. These costs are due to loss of productivity for employees with hearing loss, higher costs of education for children and teens with hearing loss and training of adults for re-entry into job markets after hearing loss, and societal costs associated with the monetary value assigned to lack of socialization for those who experience hearing loss, tinnitus, or other hearing related conditions.

Solutions for these issues start with early intervention and access hearing diagnoses and devices. The WHO recommends the following:

  • Addressing hearing loss as a public health issue
  • Allocating resources for ear and hearing care
  • Planning strategically to promote ear and hearing care
  • Providing better access to ear and hearing care
  • Prevention of and screening and early intervention for hearing loss
  • Data gathering to support claims of the cost of unaddressed hearing loss
  • Analysis of the cost–effectiveness of interventions to strengthen available evidence

Occupational related hearing loss is one of the biggest contributors to hearing loss costs in North America. According to Workplace Medical Group, most workplace related noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is permanent but preventable. This type of hearing loss causes employee absenteeism, turnover, and multiple workplace compensation claims every year. It is the responsibility of employers to prevent over-exposure with a hearing conservation program to reduce risks, and this program must be actionable and effective.

Tools that produce lower noise levels combined with hearing protection are two simple ways to help lower risk of NIHL. Different types of headgear which may or may not be linked to communications devices, as well as open workspaces as opposed to closed workspaces and tools with noise control features can all help reduce occupational noise exposure.

In addition to increasing awareness and instituting protective measures against hearing loss, treating hearing loss with hearing aids and therapies can assist those who have experienced these issue in finding and keeping employment, achieving educational goals, and more. Accuquest provides a wide range of hearing aids and accessories designed to help those who have experienced hearing loss or tinnitus.