Prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise (such as industrial machinery, heavy traffic or even loud music) can cause noise-induced hearing loss. One-time exposure to extremely loud sounds such as explosions or gunshots can cause immediate and irreversible hearing loss. These loud sounds cause damage to the ear structures and delicate hair cells, which play a vital role in transmitting sound waves to the brain.
The most common symptom of noise-induced hearing loss is a gradual onset of high-frequency hearing loss. The progressive nature of the damage - and the fact that it does not hurt - means many people do not notice anything is wrong until it is already quite severe.
There are 11 million people with hearing loss in the UK, that's around one in six of us. By 2035, this is estimated to increase to one in five, with around 15.6 million people with hearing loss across the UK. Find out more facts about hearing loss on the Action on hearing loss website.