Noise and Ear

On International Noise Awareness Day, 28th April 2010

The Center for Hearing and Communication founded International Noise Awareness Day to promote awareness of the dangers of long-term exposure to noise.

Everything you need to know about the noises you’re exposed to every day. Discover which noises could be damaging to your hearing and learn steps you can take to prevent hearing loss due to noise at

Noise and ear:

Excessive noise exposure is the most common cause of hearing loss.

Too loud noise damages sensitive nerve endings in the inner ear (delicate cells called cillia) and causes sensorineural hearing loss. It can be reduced or prevented all together.

Sudden exposure to loud noise may cause temporary sensorineural hearing loss which usually recovers over 24 to 48 hours.

But if sound is too loud, or loud sound is too close or loud sound is exposed over a long period of time (more than 85 db), permanent sensorineural hearing loss can occur.

And 85 decibels is not as loud as you will think.  Sound from an iPod shuffle is usually 115 db, and with fireworks it goes at 150 db. Not only Large bore guns and artillery But even cap guns and firecrackers can damage your hearing if the explosion is close to your ear.

What is Dangerous level of noise?

Sensitivity to sound is different for each person.

Noise may damage your hearing if you have to shout over background noise to make yourself heard, the noise hurts your ears, it makes your ears ring, or you have difficulty hearing for several hours after exposure to the noise.

Approx. Decibel Level Example
0 Faintest sound heard by human ear.
30 Whisper, quiet library.
60 Normal conversation, sewing machine, typewriter.
90 Lawnmower, shop tools, truck traffic; 8 hours per day is the maximum exposure to protect 90% of people.
100 Chainsaw, pneumatic drill, snowmobile; 2 hours per day is the maximum exposure without protection.
115 Sandblasting, loud rock concert, auto horn; 15 minutes per day is the maximum exposure without protection.
140 Gun muzzle blast, jet engine; noise causes pain and even brief exposure injures unprotected ears. Maximum allowed noise with hearing protectors.

Occupational exposure to noise

People with occupations involving exposure to noise above 85 decibel over an 8 hour period daily are also at risk. These include industries like mining, construction, drilling and agriculture.

For unprotected ears, the allowed exposure time decreases by one-half for each 5 dB increase in the average noise level. For instance, exposure is limited to 8 hours at 90 dB, 4 hours at 95 dB, and 2 hours at 100 dB

The highest permissible noise exposure for the unprotected ear is 115 dB for 15 minutes/day. Any noise above 140 dB is not permitted.

Noise exposure is cumulative. So the noise at home or at play must be counted in the total exposure during any one day.

If you must work in an excessively noisy environment, you should wear protectors.

* Person working in noise above 85 db should use noise protection devices-ear plugs and ear muffs. It is as simple a concept as using goggles to protect your eyes from UV rays of sun. It should also be used by musicians and when using power tools, noisy yard equipment, or firearms.

Do periodic hearing check ups with annual hearing test (pure tone Audiometry).

Ear Protectors

Hearing protection devices decrease the intensity of sound that reaches the eardrum. They come in two forms: earplugs and earmuffs.

Earplugs are small inserts that fit into the outer ear canal. They must be snugly sealed so the entire circumference of the ear canal is blocked. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be custom made.

Earmuffs fit over the entire outer ear to form an air seal so the entire circumference of the ear canal is blocked, and they are held in place by an adjustable band.
Properly fitted earplugs or muffs reduce noise 15 to 30 dB. Simultaneous use of earplugs and muffs usually adds 10 to 15dB more protection than either used alone. Combined use should be considered when noise exceeds 105 dB.

Cotton balls or tissue paper wads stuffed into the ear canals are very poor protectors.

On earliest sign of noise trauma like irritability, buzzing sound in ear or difficulty in hearing, trouble understanding what people say;  especially when you are in a noisy place such as in a crowd or at a party. This could be the beginning of high-frequency hearing loss; a hearing test will detect it.
visit your physician.

Few more tips

  • Turn down volume of MP3 player/television.
  • Do not stand directly near to the source of noise.

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