Did you know that sounds that are too loud for too long can damage your hearing permanently? The louder the noise, the faster it can damage your hearing. This October, during National Protect Your Hearing Month, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) encourages everyone to learn about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and steps you can take to prevent it.
Very loud noise, such as using firearms, can cause you to lose your hearing almost instantly. You can damage your hearing in less than 15 minutes at loud sporting events or concerts or when listening to music through headphones at high volume. If the noise is not as loud but lasts a long time, such as when using noisy yard or farm equipment, hearing damage can build more slowly.
NIHL can happen to anyone at any age. Up to 24 percent of American adults under age 70 may have hearing loss due to noise exposure in one or both ears. Other studies have suggested that 13 to 18 percent of U.S. teens have signs of possible hearing loss from noise.
When sounds are too loud for too long, tiny bundles of hair-like structures that sit on top of hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. When hair cells are damaged, they cannot respond to sound, causing NIHL. In humans, hair cells cannot be fixed or replaced, so the hearing loss is permanent. Because NIHL can build slowly over time, you might not notice the early signs of hearing loss.
The good news is that you can take steps to protect your hearing:
- Lower the volume. Know which noises can cause damage: those at or above 85 decibels. If you use headphones or earbuds, keep the volume low.
- Move away from the noise. If you cannot lower the volume, put some distance between you and the source.
- Wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs, when you’re involved in a noisy activity, whether it’s mowing the lawn, using power tools, playing loud music, or attending a concert or loud sporting event. Activity-specific earplugs and earmuffs are available online and at hardware, sporting goods, and other stores.
- Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
- Tell family, friends, and colleagues about noise hazards.
Help spread the healthy hearing message to your family and community with these resources:
- October is Protect Your Hearing Month shareable image (also available in Spanish).
- It's a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing.® is a public education campaign that teaches preteens and their parents and communities about noise-induced hearing loss.
- How Loud is Too Loud bookmark
- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss fact sheet
- Do You Need a Hearing Test?