Of all the risk factors and causes of hearing loss, loud noise is the most common. It is also a preventable one. 

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is often a gradual loss of hearing due to continuous exposure to loud sounds. Though you may get used to loud sounds such as music or screaming engines, your ears will not.

Sudden loud sounds can also cause sudden and severe ear damage, such as a ruptured eardrum. Both these types of NIHL are permanent, which is why it is so important to take steps to protect your hearing in every way possible.

Learn What Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Hearing

Protecting yourself from loud sounds is the best way to protect your hearing. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you need to shout to be heard over the ambient noise, it’s likely loud enough to cause hearing damage. 

Prolonged exposure to sounds over 70dB can cause hearing damage. For comparison, 70dB is the noise from a washing machine, while city traffic is even louder at 80-85dB, sporting events at 100dB, and the maximum volume on most personal listening devices at 105-110dB. At these levels, you can experience hearing damage in less than 5 minutes.

So, what can you do to preserve your hearing?

  • Avoid exposure to loud sounds

Wherever you can avoid loud sounds such as gunshots, fireworks, and rock concerts. These have extremely high decibel levels that can cause sudden and severe hearing loss. Move away from the loudest sounds such as speakers, and limit your exposure when you can’t.

Also, learn to turn down the volume on your headphones, TV, car, and other sources of noise. You can also buy appliances with low noise ratings such as electric lawnmowers.

  • Use hearing protection when exposed to loud noise

If you can’t avoid loud noises such as lawnmowers, chainsaws, fireworks, agricultural equipment, cars, among others, wear earplugs. They are cheap and can be custom-fitted for your ears to keep your harmful sounds.

Unlike earplugs that go inside your ear, you can also wear earmuffs that completely cover the top of your ears. These need a tight fit and can reduce noise by 15–20 decibels. In very loud environments, you should wear both.

  • Let your ears recover after exposure to loud sounds

Prolonged exposure to loud sounds causes a gradual decline in hearing function. Wherever you can, take a five-minute break to give your ears time to rest and recover.

In addition, researchers have found that your ears need an average of 16 hours of quiet to recover from a single night of loud music and sounds, such as a club.

Other Ways to Protect Your Ears

In addition to protection from loud sounds, there are other ways you can protect your hearing.

  • Stop inserting things inside your ears. Don’t use cotton swabs to clean your ears, and stick to a soft wet towel; the wax is normal and important to help protect your ears.
  • Keep your ears dry. Prolonged exposure to moisture inside the ear can encourage bacteria to grow and cause infections. Dry your ears adequately and use fitting swimmers earplugs where possible.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle; manage stress, exercise, and keep your weight down.

You should also have your hearing tested every 3 years. These screenings will help to catch hearing loss before it becomes severe. CTA