Caught by surprise: Gradual hearing loss

✓ Evidence Based
Noel Cullen

Noel Cullen

Senior Hearing Aid Audiologist at Hidden Hearing
Noel Cullen has been the Senior Hearing Aid Audiologist in Abbey Street for 21 years. During this time Noel has cared for and successfully helped thousands of people with mild, moderate and profound hearing problems. Noel also has experience helping those with tinnitus, vertigo and others with medical related hearing loss.As a fully qualified fellowship member of both the British and the Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists, he has years of advanced training both locally and nationally.

His knowledge in communication disorders has helped a wide range of patients, including both adults and children with hearing loss. He provides screenings, hearing tests, aural rehabilitation and has an extensive knowledge of both conventional and digital hearing instruments.

Find Out More About Noel


Whether it is a result of noise exposure or aging, hearing loss tends to sneak up on us.

Hearing loss can be the result of noise over a long period of time, or from a very loud exposure over a short period of time. The noise from combat while in the military, or from factory and construction work can destroy the inner ear causing a permanent hearing loss and ringing in the ears known as tinnitus. Other causes for gradual hearing loss could be from a change in blood supply from heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.

There are other reasons for hearing loss, but some come on more suddenly. For example if there is a head injury, tumor, stroke or a virus this can cause instant changes in hearing, balance and cause tinnitus.

Hearing loss related to age and to noise exposure are the two most common reasons for gradual changes in hearing. People will say they are frustrated because everybody is mumbling, and bits of conversation are being missed more often. This can have a dramatic effect on the person with the hearing loss, and can result in fatigue, withdrawal and denial.

Gradual hearing loss is often caused by a slow paced deterioration of nerves that are needed for hearing. These hearing nerves sit in a hearing organ which itself is in a small, snail-shaped structure called the cochlea. Over time and from noise exposure, the nerves don’t work as well and can’t send the sound to our brains as effectively which causes a hearing miscommunication. This is why hearing loss can be exhausting: it takes the brain more energy to relay the information and make sense of it.

So let’s talk about how to protect your ears, and those precious hearing nerves! How loud is too loud? Being exposed to loud noise over an extended period of time can cause hearing loss and put you at risk for tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

The rule of thumb by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health warns that more than eight hours of exposure to noise at 85 decibels without hearing protection can cause hearing loss. The risks grow significantly as the loudness levels increase. For example, at 100 decibels the safe time decreases to 15 minutes, and at 109 decibels, the safe level is just below two minutes.



If you have to be in a noisy environment for work or leisure reasons, the simplest way to help prevent hearing loss is to wear earplugs. Earplugs can be used at work but also when attending loud concerts, for mowing the lawn, using a chainsaw or working with wood or metal at home. Often earplugs will help cut out approximately 39 decibels of noise. If you are in noise often, custom earplugs are recommended, and are made to fit the entire ear to ensure proper sound attenuation.

If you have other questions about gradual hearing loss, hearing protection or would like to have your hearing assessed, contact your local clinic or call us at 1800 370 000 for more information.

Caught by surprise: Gradual hearing loss
Article Name
Caught by surprise: Gradual hearing loss
There are other reasons for hearing loss, but some come on more suddenly. For example if there is a head injury, tumor, stroke or a virus this can cause instant changes in hearing, balance and cause tinnitus.
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Hidden Hearing
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