Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and Its Prevention

  • Medical Author:
    James K. Bredenkamp, MD, FACS

    Dr. Bredenkamp recieved his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. He then went on to serve a six year residency at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine in the department of Surgery.

  • Medical Author: Frederick B Gaupp, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ear Infection Slideshow Pictures

How loud can a sound get before it affects hearing?

Many experts agree that continual exposure to more than 85 decibels (dB) is dangerous to the ears. As already mentioned, the decibel is a measure of the intensity of sound. For example:

  • the faintest sound the human ear can detect is labeled 0 dB, whereas the noise at a rocket pad during launch approaches 180 dB;
  • a quiet whisper is approximately 30 dB;
  • normal conversation is 60 dB;
  • a lawnmower is 90 dB; and
  • the sound from an iPod Shuffle has been measured at 115 dBs.

Decibels are measured logarithmically, which means that the sound energy of noise increases by units of 10. Therefore, a dB increase of a sound from 20to 30 dB is an increase of 10 times, and a dB increase of a sound from 20 to 40 dB corresponds to increase of 100 times (10 times 10).

Do the duration and closeness of exposure to loud noise relate to hearing damage?

There is a direct correlation between the duration of exposure to a loud noise and the damage to hearing. This means that the longer the exposure, the greater the damage. Furthermore, the closer one is to the source of the intense noise, the more damaging it is. An example of this is iPod hearing loss. There is an alarming increase in hearing loss in children and young adults due to listening to loud music through earplugs so close to the eardrum.

Another example is discharging firearms. The loud blast of a gun so close to the ear can cause problems for anyone not wearing ear protection.

What factors increase a person's susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss?

The following factors have been associated with an increased susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/25/2015
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