Noise Prevention & Exposure

Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, and one of the most common occupational illnesses in the United States. A single shot from a large caliber firearm, experienced at close range, may permanently damage your hearing in an instant. Repeated exposure to loud machinery may, over an extended period of time, present serious risks to our hearing.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, up to 10 million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise, and 30 to 50 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels (over 85 decibels) each day.

Noise-induced hearing loss is almost entirely preventable. While each individual’s susceptibility to hearing loss varies, it is always good to take the following precautions:

  • Know which noises can cause hearing damage, including jet engines, lawn mowers, chainsaws, powerboats, and MP3 players or loud music.
  • Try to reduce noise at the source. Keeping equipment in good maintenance or placing loud machines inside of an enclosure can shield you from damaging sound.
  • Personal listening devices, such as iPods, MP3 or CD players, can present risks to hearing if used at too high of a volume for too long. Use noise-canceling earphones to block out background noise and help you moderate your listening level, and give yourself breaks if you do choose to listen loud.
  • Wear hearing protection devices, such as earplugs or earmuffs, when involved in loud activities. A proper hearing protection device is required by law to be labeled with a “Noise Reduction Rating” that is based on the performance obtained under ideal laboratory conditions. Make sure to wear the device correctly.

Occupations, particularly at risk for hearing loss due to noise exposure, include:

  • Firefighters
  • Police officers
  • Factory workers
  • Miners
  • Farmers
  • Construction workers
  • Military personnel
  • Heavy industry workers
  • Musicians
  • Entertainment industry professionals
  • Office staff in crowded buildings

In addition to hearing loss, another condition that is often caused by noise exposure is tinnitus–or the perception of ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in the absence of any external stimulus. Those who suffer from tinnitus find it difficult to experience quiet, and this can be very distressing.