Have you ever been exposed to noise so loud that it seemed to make your entire body vibrate? If so, you may have been exposed to high-intensity/low-frequency (HI/LF) sound vibration. While loud noises can often make your ears hurt, HI/LF sounds can result in pain felt throughout the entire body. Furthermore, recent research has demonstrated that exposure to HI/LF sound vibration can cause damage to not only your hearing but throughout the body. This is known as Vibroacoustic Disease (VAD).
Those who work in very loud environments are typically at the greatest risk of experiencing high-intensity/low-frequency sound vibrations. Occupations with a high likelihood of exposure to HI/LF sound vibrations include military and commercial aircraft pilots, airline cabin crewmembers, aircraft technicians, ship machinists, and disc jockeys. Members of various branches of the military may be exposed to HI/LF sound in a variety of situations, such as on aircraft carriers, when operating machinery or weaponry, on a military base, or when they are near a blast, gunshot, or explosion.
In addition, some people with more “normal” civilian jobs can also be exposed to high-intensity/low-frequency sound vibrations. This can include occupations like professional audio sound technicians, other jobs at concert and event venues, construction or demolition workers, restaurant workers, and heavy machinery operators.
While noise-induced hearing loss is fairly well known, Vibroacoustic Disease is not. This condition can occur in people who have been exposed to HI/LF sound vibrations, especially if they were exposed for long periods of time or at a frequent rate over months or years. However, VAD is much more than a hearing problem. Common symptoms of VAD include:
Exposure to high-intensity/low-frequency sound vibration can cause hearing loss, as well as impacting your muscular, neurological, and even cardiovascular systems. One study found that VAD is associated with a thickening of cardiovascular structures, such as pericardial thickening. As one researcher said, “When a person feels sound waves from HI/LF vibrations, every cell in his or her body is being damaged.” This cell damage contributes to the effects seen in systems throughout the body, far beyond the auditory system.
Because HI/LF sound vibrations damage the body’s cells, the body typically responds by increasing adrenaline and endorphin levels in the blood. This is known as the fight-or-flight response that aids humans in survival during dangerous situations. However, this response can lead to confusion, disorientation, and an overall lack of awareness, which can cause accidents.
Vibroacoustic Disease is sometimes mistaken for PTSD, especially in military personnel and veterans. Because some symptoms of VAD can overlap with PTSD symptoms, it is essential that military personnel and veterans receive individual care and thorough evaluations to ensure the proper diagnosis is made and the appropriate treatment is provided.
To protect your self from VAD, limit your exposure to high-intensity/low-frequency sound vibrations as much as possible. If you must work in a very noisy environment, wear proper ear protection to limit damage to your hearing.
If you believe that you may suffer from Vibroacoustic Disease or any other auditory condition, we encourage you to contact our hearing healthcare professional today. We are eager to care for you.