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Repeated Exposure to Loud Noises Can Create an Ear Tumor

A study that was published in a 2006 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that exposure to loud noises over many years can increase your risk of developing a non-cancerous tumour called acoustic neuroma, which can cause hearing loss. Of important note is that the study found that this risk holds true of any loud noise, not just work-related noise.

Though we've long known that repeated exposure to loud noises can cause hearing loss, this study offers evidence that over time, exposure to loud noises can actually cause tumor formation.

The study found that people who were repeatedly exposed to loud noises over a period of several years were 1.5 times more likely to develop an acoustic neuroma than people who weren't exposed to loud noises on a frequent basis.

A total of 710 people were evaluated for this study - 564 people without the tumor, and 146 with acoustic neuroma. Participants ranged from 20 to 69 years of age.

Data was collected for the following categories of loud noise exposure, defined as 80 decibels (the sound of busy city traffic) or louder:

  • Machines
  • Power tools and/or construction noise
  • Motors, including airplanes
  • Employment in the music industry
  • Loud music
  • Screaming children
  • Sports events
  • Restaurants and/or bars

Data was also collected on the use of hearing protection with the following results:

Of the types of noise listed above, the two categories that were found to be the most likely causes of tumor formation were:

  1. Exposure to music and employment in the music industry (2.25 times more likely to develop tumor)

  2. Exposure to machines, power tools and/or construction (1.8 times more likely to develop tumor)

Exposure to screaming children, sports events and/or bars, and restaurants were 1.4 times more likely to cause an acoustic neuroma, while exposure to motors, including airplanes, increased the risk of developing acoustic neuroma by 1.3 times.

Also worth noting: exposure to loud noises for as little as five years increased the chance of developing acoustic neuroma by 1.5 times.

Some background information on acoustic neuroma:

  • It accounts for approximately 6 to 10 percent of tumors that develop in the head region

  • Anywhere from 1 to 20 people out of every 100,000 develop acoustic neuroma on an annual basis

  • Approximately 95 percent of all cases of acoustic neuroma are unilateral (in one ear only)

  • Bilateral acoustic neuroma is often inherited

  • If an acoustic neuroma is detected early enough, it's quite possible for a surgeon to excise it without a high risk of complications

Take home message

People who use devices to protect their ears against loud noises have no greater risk of developing an acoustic neuroma than those who are not regularly exposed to loud noises. People who wear these devices are only half as likely to develop an acoustic neuroma as people who do not wear any protective devices.

In going through intake health surveys with clients over the years, I have found that the most common source of noise exposure where a person isn't aware that damage is likely occurring over time is the use of a household blender. If you regularly use a blender to make healthy smoothies, soups, and dressings, be sure to keep ear plugs nearby, and if others are typically around when you blend - particularly younger children - have plugs or a headset readily available for them as well. In our home, we keep ear plugs in a container right by our Vita-Mix, and our boys know to get their Hearing Protector Headsets on whenever it's smoothie time.


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I lost part my hearing in the heavy industry (G.M.) and later mostly by a severe ear infection. But thank goodness there are now methods to restore some if not most by Cochlear Implants which I have now. Cochlear Implant are also for people and especially for children who never heard a thing and were deaf from birth. I am so glad to hear again birds and other noises which I haven't heard for years.

Listen to Dr. Kim! I have tinnitus and I now live in misery.

I hear that, excuse the pun. A constant ringing in the ears. Silence would be sheer bliss.

Question. What about ear phones? I tell my kids not to use them when playing on their leap pad or anything else. Even if it's on quiet, does not the direct noise so close to the ear drum have a negative affect, or is it fine if the volume is low? It worries me to see half the world with earphones in, especially young people with Ipods and MP3's. I often wonder if 1/2 the world will be def in 20 years.

It's probably fine if the volume is low. The problem is that kids these days blast their ipods on maximum volume. Actually magnesium can protect against hearing damage, but with the poor diets of most teens, they are unlikely to have enough in their systems.