Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss and one of the most common occupational illnesses in the United States. Sounds at safe levels, such as conversation, sounds from TV and radio, household appliances and traffic, do not damage our hearing. But sounds can be harmful when they are too loud. Exposure to excessive loud sounds damages the hair cells in the inner ear and causes irreversible noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
What causes NIHL?
NIHL can be caused by continuous exposure to music, machinery, power tools and other equipment. However, even a single loud gunshot or explosion at close range can cause sudden, permanent hearing damage.
How loud is too loud?
How can I tell I am listening to dangerous noise levels?
- You must raise your voice to be heard.
- you can’t hear someone 3 ft away from you.
- Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave the noisy area.
- You have pain or ringing in your ears (tinnitus) after exposure to noise.
Can NIHL be prevented?
NIHL is the only type if hearing loss that is completely preventable.
- Know which noises can cause damage (noise level above 85 decibels).
- Be alert to hazardous noises in the environment.
- Wear earplugs or other protective devices when involved in a loud activity.
- Move away from loud noise if you can’t reduce the level.
- Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
- Make family, friends, and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.
Understand the hazards of noise and practice good hearing health to protect your hearing for life.