Hearing Protection

Facts About Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

by the American Academy of Audiology

Approximately 36 million Americans have hearing loss. One in three developed their hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise.  Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in our inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged our hair cells cannot grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.

Hearing protection decreases the intensity, or loudness, of noise and helps preserve your hearing.

  • Harmful sounds are either, too loud and last too long, OR are very loud and sudden.  For example hearing loss can be caused by, exposure to a one-time intense “impulse” sound such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time, such as sitting to close during a concert or working in a factory.

You may encounter harmful sounds at work, at home, and during recreational activities. (If you work in a hazardous noise environment, speak with your supervisor or compliance officer about OSHA recommendations on your amount of noise exposure.)


The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 (dB).

  • 60 dB Normal conversations or dishwashers
  • 80 dB Alarm clocks
  • 90 dB Hair dryers, blenders, lawnmowers
  • 100 dB MP3 players at full volume
  • 110 dB Concerts (any music genre), car racing and sporting events
  • 120dB Jet planes at take off
  • 130 dB Ambulances
  • 140 dB Gun shots, fireworks, and custom car stereos at full volume

Noise is dangerous if…

  • You have to shout over background noise to be heard
  • The noise is painful to your ears
  • The noise makes your ears ring
  • You have decreased or “muffled” hearing for several hours after exposure

Protect your hearing by:

  • Wearing hearing protection when around sounds louder than 85dB for a long period of time. There are different types of hearing protection such as foam earplugs, earmuffs and custom hearing protection devices.
  • Turning down the volume when listening to the radio, TV, MP3 player, or anything through ear buds or headphones.