If you think you don't hear as well as you used to, you're not alone; your fellow professionals in the audio world are right there with you, according to a recent governmental study on high-frequency hearing loss.

House Ear Institute (HEI) researchers recently presented data compiled since 1997 from thousands of hearing screenings conducted at trade shows attended by people working in the live music and audio industries.

The results indicate that high-frequency hearing loss from noise-induced inner ear damage is evident in this sector of the population that is repeatedly exposed to high sound levels. Even when thresholds were within normal limits, all groups shared characteristic “noise-notch,” or loss of hearing sensitivity around the 4 to 6 kilohertz frequency range. Further, compared to the general population, both men and women in music and sound careers show more hearing loss across all age groups.

When assessing hearing damage for these groups, HEI researchers also considered exposure to noise sources outside of the work environment that might contribute to hearing loss. These additional noise sources included recreational activities and hobbies, home, and yard maintenance with power equipment, and commuter noise (car/train/bus). Comparative studies were included to determine contributing factors such as gender, age, and history of vocational noise exposure to loud sounds. HEI researchers emphasize that noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the one type of hearing loss that is preventable and encourage professionals to wear appropriate hearing protection where sound levels exceed the 85 decibel level (dB SPL) for extended periods of time.

For specific sound exposure guidelines, please visit the Sound Partners page on the HEI Web site at www.hei.org.