Noise-Induced Hearing Loss – Causes & Prevention

Hearing loss affects many people around the world. It is something that can happen subtly and might barely be noticed at first, and then suddenly the person realizes there is an issue.  It can also happen suddenly. Many people don’t realize they are having hearing loss at first.  It is something that is easy to miss. Unlike sight, where you would notice right away, with your hearing it is easy to think that someone else is speaking softly or the room is loud so it’s hard to hear. Hearing function seems to erode away little by little, often making it difficult to diagnose for an individual, or people close to the situation.  Only when the loss becomes significant is it usually noticed by the person it is happening to.

Hearing is so important to our everyday functioning. We hear the traffic sounds, the person calling our name and it helps us know something’s coming or someone needs us. When hearing loss happens it can make these important sounds harder to discern.  Taking steps to obtain proper hearing aids or other hearing enhancement devices can counteract this loss, greatly improving the quality of life.

One common type of hearing loss is Noise-Induced hearing loss. This is generally preventable. Noise-Induced hearing loss can happen right away or take a long time until it is noticed. Loud noises damage your hearing. Even if it is a quick sound it can cause damage if it is loud enough.  You can be at risk at any age for noise-induced hearing loss, and people who work in loud environments are especially prone to damage. This can affect children and adults.

Construction Hearing Loss

A very intense sound like an explosion can cause hearing loss just from one exposure. It can also be caused by a loud noise that happens over and over. For example, if someone works on a construction site, hunts, drives a dirt bike, listens to music through headphones or earbuds at loud levels, mows lawns or plays in a band, all of these things with continued exposure can lead to noise-induced hearing loss.

Sound is measured in Decibels, where a safe level of sound is 75 decibels or below. Anything 85 decibels or above can cause hearing loss with repeated exposure. The higher the decibels the more likely it can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Here is an idea of different sounds and the decibel level damage they can cause:

  • Conversation in a restaurant – 60 decibels.
  • Car driving at 65 mph – would be 70 decibels to someone standing 25 feet from it.
  • Vacuum cleaner – 70 decibels
  • Quiet rural area – 30 decibels
  • Garbage disposal or dishwasher – 80 decibels
  • Lawn Mower – 96 decibels
  • Farm Tractor – 100 decibels
  • Live Rock Music – range of 108 – 114 decibels
  • Alarm clock – 80 decibels
  • Motorcycle riding – 100 decibels
  • Emergency Vehicle Siren – 115 decibels

There are many common activities that could cause damage with sustained exposure over time. The distance from the sound and the amount of time you are exposed are key factors in determining your risk. It is important to try to avoid noises that are too loud, are too close to you, or last too long.

Now that you know what can cause the damage – how can damage be prevented? Knowing what can cause the damage can help you avoid exposure to those activities for long periods of time. Using earplugs or protective devices around activities you know will be loud can protect your hearing. For example, if you mow lawns, it’s important to wear protective ear muffs so that you are not being constantly exposed to 96 decibels of sound. Try to move away from loud noises as much as possible. If you hunt or work on construction sites make sure to wear ear plugs.

custom ear plugs

In other words, remove yourself from noisy situations when possible. If these situations can’t be avoided, take steps to protect your ears by wearing ear plugs, or moving as far away from the sound as possible. Prevention is the best way to protect your hearing.

Oh, and turn down your iPod.

If you have a question about your hearing, you should get it tested by an audiologist. Hearing professionals are able to assess if you have hearing loss and how much damage you have. They’ll be able to fit you with appropriate hearing aids or some up with other recommendations to help improve your hearing situation.

Want to learn more about hearing loss? Download our Free Hearing Aid Guide today for more information about maintaining healthy hearing and selecting the appropriate listening devices to help improve your hearing or that of a loved one.

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