Noise-induced Hearing Loss: How to Know When Sounds Are Dangerous

September 10, 2019 0

With all the sounds surrounding us daily, it’s no wonder that millions of Americans are living with moderate to severe noise-induced hearing loss. According to the American Academy of Audiology, “Approximately 40 million American adults may have hearing loss resulting from noise exposure.”  

Noise-induced hearing loss, also known as NIHL, is the result of damage to hair cells located in the inner ear. These hair cells work with sounds coming into the ear and converts those sounds into electrical signals. These signals then that travel to the brain where they are processed. This process is what allows us to hear birds chirping, the wind blowing and a plethora of other sounds.  However, once these hair cells are damaged, they do not grow back, resulting in permanent hearing loss.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss and Sound Levels

Sounds impacting our hearing are all around us, especially if you are a person living in a more urban environment. From televisions and radios to construction equipment and horns honking during rush hour. Sounds of all levels fill our lives. So how do you know when a sound is too loud?

Sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, even for a short period of time, or when they are both loud and long-lasting noises. According to the American Academy of Audiology, “Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by sudden or prolonged exposure to any sound over 85dB (sound loudness is measured in units called decibels).”

The following is a collected measurement of common sounds around people referenced from the American Academy of Audiology:


Sound Level Sounds in Human Environments
60 dB Normal conversations, dishwashers
80 dB Alarm clocks
90 dB Hair dryers, blenders, lawnmowers
94-110 dB Music through headphones at maximum volume
110+ dB Concerts (any music genre), car racing, sporting events
120 dB Jet planes at take off
110-129 dB Ambulance, fire engine sirens
140 dB Gun shots, fireworks, custom car stereos at full volume
140-160dB Fireworks

The Effects of Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss can be sudden or happen gradually with repeated loud noise experiences, such as gunshots or explosions, which can rupture the eardrum or damage the bones in the middle ear. This kind of noise-induced hearing loss can be immediate and permanent.

Typically, noise-induced hearing loss results from exposure to loud noises over time. When anyone is exposed to loud noise over a long period of time, that person will slowly start to lose their hearing capabilities. Because the damage from noise exposure is usually gradual, you might not notice it right away. It’s when the activity causing the noise-induced hearing loss is repeated that the hearing loss will continue to get worse. That is, unless you’ve experienced sudden noise-induced hearing loss from a larger sound experience.

Over time, people who experience noise-induced hearing loss will identify with sounds becoming distorted or muffled and these people will likely find it difficult to understand other people when they talk or turn up the volume on the television more often. Damage from noise-induced hearing loss in conjunction with aging, can lead to severe hearing loss.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Noise-induced hearing loss as a result of loud noise exposure can also cause tinnitus. Tinnitus is the experience of a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears or head that comes and goes and lasts for various amounts of time. Tinnitus may subside over time but can sometimes continue constantly or occasionally throughout a person’s life. Hearing loss and tinnitus can occur in one or both ears, according to the American Academy of Audiology.

Get Help for Noise-induced Hearing Loss

If you live in the Rhode Island area, we can help you get back your quality of life! At Physicians Hearing Solutions, located in East Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island, our expert team of hearing healthcare professionals are fully trained and experienced in providing our patients with the best hearing healthcare available today.  From our ENTs (Otolaryngologists) to our Audiologists and National Board-Certified Hearing Instrument Specialists, our team works with cutting-edge hearing aid technology to suit all hearing loss levels, lifestyles and budgets!

Our hearing healthcare team of professionals are dedicated to supporting each patient’s individual hearing healthcare needs. Through diagnostic hearing evaluations and analysis of hearing functionality, our team works to create the appropriate hearing healthcare plan for each patient.

Call us today at (401) 921-0181 to begin your hearing healthcare journey with a free, no-obligation hearing evaluation & consultation.

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