Loud noise can damage the sensitive structures within your inner ear, leading to irreversible hearing loss. And it’s important to know that loud noises don’t have to be physically painful to cause hearing damage; the harm is cumulative, similar to how exposure to the sun gradually damages your skin even if you don’t get sunburned. The higher the level of sound and the longer the exposure, the more damage is likely to occur. Remember, if you damage your hearing, it won’t come back!
How much noise is too much noise?
If you need to raise your voice or shout to carry on a conversation, the noise around you is probably too loud. If your ears are sore or ringing, you may have damaged your hearing. Most of your daily activities won’t harm your hearing, but some activities can start to cause damage after only a short time.
Tips for protecting your hearing
- Avoid loud sounds and noise.
- If you can’t avoid a loud sound, you should protect your ears with earplugs or earmuffs. Balls of cottonwool or tissue offer little protection.
- Sudden, very intense sounds, such as gunshots, are particularly dangerous and can cause immediate, permanent hearing loss.
- Use hearing protection such as earplugs at loud music events. Special earplugs can be made for musicians to protect their hearing while preserving the sound quality of the music.
- Give your ears frequent rest from noise. Limit your time in very noisy places and take regular breaks in quieter areas.
- Set the volume of your portable music player at a moderate level. Don’t turn up the volume of your stereo to try to drown out background noise. As a general rule, set the volume to a level where you can hear someone at arm’s length without them having to shout.
Hearing protection in the workplace
Talk to your Occupational Health and Safety Officer about making your workplace quieter. Remember, it’s an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment and there is a national standard for noise exposure in the workplace.
You should also be aware that your risk of hearing loss increases if you are occupationally exposed to solvents or toxins or if you are taking certain drugs.