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Hearing loss: early signs of damage in young adults who regularly attend loud clubs and concerts While the link between noise exposure and hearing loss is well known, it’s possible that the extent of hearing damage from noise exposure has been underestimated. This is because very subtle hearing damage can occur which is not detectable by pure-tone audiometry – the most commonly used hearing test by audiologists. This test measures our ability to detect very quiet sounds in a quiet environment. Most amplified concerts exceed 100 decibels – meaning we shouldn’t be exposed to this level of noise for more than 15 minutes in an eight-hour period without proper hearing protection. However, unlike work-related noise, there is no specific legislation setting noise limits for audience members. Studies showed that all participants had clinically normal hearing as measured by pure-tone audiometry. But those with the highest levels of noise exposure had poorer functioning of the minute hair cells in the inner-ear which are integral to hearing. We also found that people with higher levels of noise exposure had poorer conduction of sound signals from the hearing nerve towards the brain, which could negatively affect how the brain processes sounds.
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