Follow These 3 Rules to Prevent Hearing Loss

We live in a noisy world. Everywhere we go there are sounds, from birds chirping, to kids playing, to jackhammers hammering; and we want to be able to hear those things for a long time. Unfortunately, there are a lot of loud sounds out there, and too much exposure to loud sounds over time can cause noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to tiny cells in the cochlea (the organ of hearing in the ear) and can be permanent. About 1 in 7 U.S teens (age 12-19) have signs of possible NIHL and that number goes up to 1 in 4 as Adults. That’s 25%. The good news though is that it does not have to be that way.  Noise induced hearing loss is preventable.

We can make choices when it comes to hearing health.

Three Simple Rules

  1. Turn it down
  2. Move away from the noise
  3. If you can’t do either of these things, wear hearing protection (like earplugs or protective earmuffs)

How Loud Is Too Loud?

The louder the sound and the longer that you are exposed to the sound, the more likely it is to damage your hearing. Sound that can be heard by human ears is measured in units called decibels (dBA). The louder the sound, the higher the decibels.  For example, a whisper is about 30 dBA and normal conversation is 60-70 dBA. Decibel levels below 70 dBA are usually considered safe. Exposure to louder sounds, especially for long periods of time can damage your hearing.  Noise can damage your hearing if it is:

  • 85 dBA and lasts a few hours
  • 100 dBA and last at least 14 minutes
  • 110 dBa and lasts at least 2 minutes

Those loud sounds are everywhere. School cafeterias can average 85 dBA. Concerts and sporting events can reach 95-110 dBA. Your headphones playing your music can get to 100-110 dBA if the volume is all the way up. When your ears ring after listening to loud music, it is not because it is good music—it is because your ears are telling you that the volume is TOO LOUD.

You only get one chance with your ears and noise exposure can add up over time, so protect what you have.  Yeah, it’s a loud world out there, but if you think about your choices and follow the three rules, then you can hear and enjoy that noisy world for a long time.

For more information about hearing health, check out It’s a Noisy Planet, a program of the National Institutes of Health.

Christopher Grindle, MD, is an ENT specialist at Connecticut Children’s. To set up an appointment with Dr. Grindle, call (860) 545-9650 or request an appointment online

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