Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Loud noise is the second biggest reason why people lose their hearing. Noise-caused hearing loss might not show up for years after the first time you were exposed to loud noise. Some people have tinnitus as the first sign that noise damage has hurt their hearing.

Being around loud sounds for a long time can damage your hearing. These things could be:

  • listening to loud music in a noisy workplace
  • sounds like motorbike engines or explosions that are very sudden and loud.

How noise affects the way you hear

If you have hearing loss from being around too much noise, you will have trouble hearing high frequencies. This means that you won’t be able to hear both high-pitched and low-pitched sounds.

If the noise keeps up, this dip will get bigger and affect both low and high frequencies.

If it gets worse and affects a broader range of frequencies, it might be hard to understand people talking over background noise. Even in a quiet room, it might be hard for you to understand what someone is saying.

The length of exposure determines the damage.

How long you’re around noise is essential. How long you can “safely” around sound louder than 85dB before you need to wear hearing protection depends on how loud the sounds are.

Every 3dB increase in sound level doubles the energy the sound wave carries. So, for example, the sound of heavy traffic is twice as intense even though it doesn’t sound twice as loud as a food blender.

Up to eight hours a day, 85dB is safe. Keep in mind that you hear many sounds that are 85dB or louder throughout the day and that this exposure time adds up. With every 3dB increase in sound level, the safe exposure time is cut in half. So, the safe time to be around 88dB is four hours.

If you don’t protect your ears with earplugs, you could lose your hearing in an average nightclub that plays music at 100dB after just 15 minutes. Even a short time spent listening to sounds between 110 and 120 dB can damage your hearing.

How to tell if the noise is too loud

It can be hard to tell how loud sounds are, but if you can’t talk to someone about 2m (6ft) away without shouting because of background noise, noise levels are likely dangerously high. You can download decibel reader apps to your phone or tablet, but these should only be used as a guide because they aren’t made for professional use.

If you go to concerts, listen to music through headphones, shoot for fun, ride a motorcycle, or use power tools, you could be exposed to dangerously loud noise. If you can’t hear well or have ringing in your ears for a few hours after the noise, it is loud enough to damage your ears, and you may have a slight and permanent hearing loss. If you keep putting yourself in situations with a loud noise, this damage will worsen and last longer.

If the noise is so loud that it hurts your ears, you should leave the place right away or stop what’s making the noise. In the future, you should wear hearing protection.

Remember that the risk to your hearing increases as the noise gets louder and you are around it for longer. You can protect your hearing by turning down the volume of your music, spending less time in noisy places, and wearing earplugs or ear protectors in noisy places.

You should be able to talk to someone 2 meters away without shouting over the noise in the background. The noise level could be dangerous if you can’t be heard over the other sounds. If the noise level hurts your ears, you should leave the place.

How to stop hearing loss from noise

It’s best to avoid loud sounds at work, at home, and when you’re out and about. 

Under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005), your employer is required by law to protect your hearing if you work in a noisy place. The rules say that if you work somewhere with a lot of loud noise, your boss must have the noise levels checked and keep a record of the check.  When noise levels reach 80 decibels (dB), employers are required by law to take steps.

If you work in a noisy place, like a construction site, factory, or concert hall, or if your job requires you to listen to loud sounds through headphones or earpieces, your boss should ensure hearing protection. 

We’re here for you if you’re ready to tackle your hearing loss. Book an appointment with us today so that we can take a look.