Did you know that loud sounds, whether brief or long lasting, can be harmful and cause hearing loss? How loud is too loud, and how can you protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss?

How We Hear

To really see how noise-induced hearing loss happens, it's important to look at how we hear. Your ears are made up of three parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Sound travels through your outer ear, through the ear canal, to your middle ear -- causing your eardrums to vibrate. The vibrations cause the tiny bones in the middle ear (malleus, incus and stapes) to move to the inner ear where hair cells are located. The vibrations cause the hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea) to transmit electrical signals to the brain as sound.

How Does Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Occur?

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when exposure to loud noises, above 85 decibels (dB), damages these hair cells, which do not grow back. Exposure can occur from a single loud burst of sound or listening to loud noise over a period of time.

The Truth About Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

A lot of people assume that noise-induced hearing loss is something that only happens to people who work with noisy equipment or go to too many rock concerts. In truth, any noise you’re exposed to that is too loud for too long can cause damage. The louder the noise, the less time it takes for the damage to occur. Sustained exposure to sounds around 90-95 dB (about as loud as a jackhammer operating 50 feet away) can cause hearing loss, but 115 dB (the equivalent of a loud rock concert) takes less time to do it.

So, How Can You Protect Yourself?

According to Miracle-Ear, a good rule of thumb is to try and limit your exposure to loud sounds. Don't turn the television all the way up or listen to music that is too loud. If you are listening to loud noises on a regular basis, always remember to wear hearing protection. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines say that employees are only permitted to be exposed to sounds around 110 decibels (as loud as a power saw operating three feet away) for a half hour or less per day without some form of noise-reducing protection.

The workplace isn't the only time you need to worry about your hearing; musicians, concert goers, and gun enthusiasts, among others, should also always use hearing protection to help prevent future hearing loss.

Sometimes exposure to damaging noise is unavoidable, but being aware of your environment and taking the right precautions will keep you doing the things you love without having to worry how noise might impact your hearing.

Author's Bio: 

A recent college graduate from University of San Francisco, Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she's used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.