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Can loud noise cause hearing loss?

Loud noises can be exciting (think fireworks on the Fourth of July) or startling (a sudden sound like a clap of thunder), but can they cause hearing loss?

Loud noises are all around us on a daily basis: traffic, airplanes flying overhead, sporting events, concerts, a headphone or TV turned up a little too loud or even just your children playing loudly around the house. While many of these sounds seem harmless, prolonged exposure to loud noises can have a negative impact on hearing health.

Ears are intricate body parts, designed to process incoming sound waves and convert them into electrical signals for the brain to understand. The interior structures of the ear are especially delicate, putting them at risk of sustaining damage from excessive noise. Damage can add up over time or come all at once from a particularly loud sound, but either way this damage can be permanent.

The intensity or volume of sound is measured in decibels (dB). Sounds above about 85 dB can be harmful, especially if experienced for an extended period. It may surprise you to see just how many common activities or sounds are above this threshold.

  • 30 dB is the noise level of a whisper
  • 60 dB is the noise level of a normal conversation
  • 90 dB is the noise level of a hair dryer or lawn mower
  • 100 dB is the noise level of many handheld power tools
  • 110 dB is the noise level of a concert
  • 120 dB is the noise level of an ambulance
  • 140 dB is the noise level of a jet airplane taking off

Because hearing loss from loud noise can be irreversible, protecting your ears from loud noises is the best line of defense against hearing loss. You should be mindful of your surroundings and work to identify situations in which noise levels are consistently high, allowing you to take appropriate precautions. Earmuffs or earplugs can be worn in noisy environments, significantly lowering the impact of the sound reaching your ears. If you’re using a personal device for audio, don’t listen at the maximum volume. Many devices even have controls that allow you to reduce the maximum allowable volume which is especially useful if you have young children who can’t or won’t control the volume on their own. Regular hearing checks with your audiologist or ENT can catch early decline in hearing levels, allowing you to maintain the most hearing health.

While loud noises can cause hearing loss, taking steps to safeguard your ears can lead to a lifetime of better hearing. Want to know more about ear protection, or need a hearing screening? Call Biltmore ENT at (602) 560-1085.