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Noise Exposure Can Harm Hearing, Know these Preventative Tips

Updated: Apr 25

By Michele DiStefano, CHC's Director of Audiology

Michele DiStefano, AuD

With International Noise Awareness Day fast approaching—the big day is April 26, 2023—I'm excited to share my thoughts on the topic of noise exposure. I hope you'll hear me out.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Many of us are guilty of putting our ears in harm's way. Some of us attend rock concerts or loud sporting events. Others ride motorcycles or operate loud equipment. When we engage in these and certain other activities without hearing protection, we're often putting ourselves at risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

Let's not forget the damage that can occur when we're enjoying music at home or on the go. Simply listening to music through ear buds or headphones can pose a risk to healthy hearing if the volume is too loud.

Basic Facts about NIHL

What is a safe listening level? How do you determine when a situation requires hearing protection? These are important questions I can help answer with a few basic facts about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL):

  • Volume Level - Damage to hearing can occur with exposure to sounds greater than or equal to 85 dBA. Here's a resource to help you understand Common Environmental Noise Levels.

  • Short-Term Loss - Short-term hearing loss can occur as a result of a quick burst (e.g., gunshot) or over a more gradual time frame of 2-3 hours (e.g., listening to music through headphones at maximum volume, using a leaf blower).

  • Long-Term Loss - Extended, repeated exposure to loud sounds will cause permanent hearing loss, especially in the high pitches.

  • Know this Rule - The louder the sound, the less exposure needed to damage hearing.

  • Risk of Tinnitus - Noise exposure can also lead to tinnitusa ringing or hissing in the ear that may be temporary or permanent.

  • Learn More - Check out the NIH website to learn more about NIHL.

Noise exposure is the leading cause of hearing loss. It's estimated that 40 million adults in the U.S. have noise-induced hearing loss. One in every six to eight children (12-19 years of age) has some degree of hearing loss likely resulting from excessive noise exposure.

While noise-induced hearing loss is permanent, the good new is that it's entirely preventable when you take the appropriate steps to protect your hearing.

Safe-Listening Tips

Here are my safe-listening tips to reduce your risk of noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Noisy Environments - Limit your exposure to loud, damaging sounds (e.g., concerts). If for any reason you need to be in a noisy environment, be sure to use hearing protection (i.e., custom or OTC ear plugs). When listening to music with ear buds or head phones in a noisy environment (e.g., subway), never increase the volume to hear over the background noise.

  • Noise Alerts - Your smartphone can alert you when you are listening to sounds in the environment that are harmful to your hearing. When you receive an alert, be sure to distance yourself from the source of the noise or use hearing protection (i.e., custom or OTC ear plugs).

  • Noise Cancelling Technology - Do not rely on the noise cancelling technology in AirPod Pros and certain headphones to protect your hearing sufficiently from damage due to exposure to loud sounds (e.g., concerts). A study by The New York Times confirmed this finding. Noise cancelling technology, however, is, effective in moderately loud environments such as airplanes and subways.

  • Set Limits - When using ear buds or a wireless Bluetooth headphone, you can set a decibel limit under 85 dB so that you can ensure a safe listening level. Be sure to limit the output of your child's devices too.

Custom Hearing Protection

If you enjoy going to loud concerts or you work in a noisy environment, we recommend using custom hearing protection with appropriate noise-reducing filters that protect you from the damaging effects of loud music while still allowing you to enjoy the show. Custom hearing protection is one of our specialties at CHC-NY. Contact us for more information and to set up an appointment.

If custom earplugs aren't an option, consider OTC ear plugs the next time your headed to a concert, using a leaf blower or hopping on your lawn mower. OTC plugs offer protection and are readily available at your local drugstore.

Wishing you all the safest of listening experiences.

Happy International Noise Awareness Day!

Related Links

Q&A with Noise Expert Arline Bronzaft

Noisy Classrooms Hinder Learning

Free Online Hearing Screening

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