Background: Noise-induced hearing loss is a major cause of deafness and hearing impairment in the United States. Though genetics and advanced age are major risk factors, temporary and permanent hearing impairments are becoming more common among young adults and children especially with the increased exposure to portable music players. Though treatment options are limited for most people with noise-related hearing loss, several modifiable health behaviors that should begin in childhood might prevent or delay the onset of hearing impairment. The purpose of this article is to review modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors, comorbidity, and the role of health education in the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss.
Methods: Review of current literature in the etiology, prevention, and treatment of noise-induced hearing loss as well as the role of health education.
Results: Non-modifiable risk factors related to noise-related hearing loss include increasing age, genetics, male gender, and race. Modifiable risk factors are voluntary exposure to loud noise, nonuse of hearing protection, smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, tooth loss, and the presence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Conclusions: As hearing impairment among children and teenagers rises due to mostly voluntary exposure to loud noise, there are many implications for health education. Health educators need to address barriers to the use of hearing protection, deliberate exposure to loud music, and other modifiable risk factors, which cause and exacerbate hearing loss among those exposed to loud noise.