The Impact of Noise on Your Hearing

Hearing loss can be attributed to a variety of causes including but not limited to: heredity, disease, medications, aging, and noise. While there is no way to protect against many of these, noise is a factor we can control.

In our lives, we can be exposed to noise in a variety of settings. Most of us have experienced going to a loud concert and leaving with our ears ringing and unable to clearly hear our friends as we head home. While that is an obvious example, there are other daily activities which you might not realize can have a negative impact on your hearing. Riding a motorcycle, mowing the lawn, and working with power tools are activities where noise levels are high enough to potentially cause hearing loss. The good news is, you have the ability to reduce your risk. That doesn't mean you have to stop participating in these activities, it just means you need to use the correct protection. Hearing protection is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive. You can pick up earplugs at your local pharmacy or big box store. As a matter of fact, when inserted correctly, those little yellow 3M EAR plugs can provide up to a 30dB reduction in noise (

The use of hearing protection is also necessary in many work situations. Some of the noisiest work environments are factories, farms, construction, and music. If you have continuous, daily exposure to noise at work, you are at risk for noise induced hearing loss, and you are likely required to wear some form of hearing protection based on rules and protocols put in place by OSHA.

Exposure to guns and blasts is another cause of noise induced hearing loss. This includes individuals who shoot for sport or hunting as well as members of our military. Once again, the consistent and correct use of hearing protection is critical when you are at the range or out hunting.

A complaint I often hear, especially from hunters and musicians, is that they need to have the ability to hear while participating in the activity; which is a valid concern. However, noise induced hearing loss typically does not happen all at once. Your exposure to noise adds up and if you are not using protection you are at risk for tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss. Fortunately, there is specialized hearing protection for hunting and for music. If you have a unique need for hearing protection, a visit with a licensed audiologist would be a great place to start. In addition to learning about what is available to meet your needs, you can get a hearing test and start your journey of caring for your hearing health.

Cindy McManus, Au.D.

I am an audiologist with over 20 years of experience in the hearing field. I have worked in various settings and have experience evaluating hearing, fitting hearing aids, and providing hearing support.

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