Hardness of hearing in older persons most often results from their having been repeatedly exposed, over a lifetime, to very loud noise. Inner ear damage produced by “acoustic trauma,” unfortunately, is permanent and cumulative, and the hearing loss it causes develops progressively over a period of decades.
Although Americans are now protected by law from
excessive noise in the workplace, many of us nevertheless
continue to damage our hearing permanently by noisy leisure
activities, Emergency Medicine (20#11:169) reports. Firing
guns, listening to loud rock music, or operating unmuffled lawn mowers, motorcycles, snowmobiles, etc., are typical of the means by which people slowly but surely lose much of their hearing. While a single shotgun blast close to the ear can cause lasting deafness, the effects of most other types of loud noise are not so immediately apparent, and people continue to expose themselves to it again and again.
For this reason, Geriatrics (37#8:107) recommends, we
should always wear ear mufflers to protect our hearing every
time we mow the lawn, use a chain saw, shoot, or drive a noisy vehicle, etc. In older persons, this is more important than ever, especially when there is already some hearing loss. Even the young, when exposed to loud noise (this includes music), are unlikely to escape this effect.
Merely putting cotton or paper in the ears while performing noisy tasks does no good because one needs plugs that fit the canals snugly. Large muffs that completely cover the ears can be counted upon for protection and are much more convenient.
Certain medicines and alcohol magnify the risk of hearing loss from noise.

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