Young girl wearing headphones

Would you agree that it’s a Noisy Planet? You hear loud noises at school, home, concerts, sporting events, and just about anywhere else.

Sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, even for a short time, such as an ambulance siren passing by on the street. Sounds can also be harmful when they are both loud and long-lasting, such as the music in your headphones when the volume is turned too high.

How do you know when the volume is too loud? Sound is measured in decibels, just as height is measured in feet and inches. Any sound at or over 85 decibels can damage your hearing. For example, a normal conversation is around 60 decibels, and a firecracker explosion is around 150 decibels. Check out our Listen Up! Infographic to find out how loud some other common sounds can be.

What can loud sounds do to your hearing?

Noise-induced hearing loss happens when tiny hair-like structures (called stereocilia, pronounced STARE-ee-oh-SILL-ee-ah) that sit on top of hair cells in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed by noises that are too loud and/or last for too long. This type of hearing loss is permanent.

Microscopic image of healthy stereocilia, also called hair cells.
Healthy stereocilia

Microscopic image of stereocilia that have been damaged.
Damaged stereocilia

The good news: You can prevent noise-induced hearing loss!

You can prevent hearing loss from noise in three ways:

  • Lower the volume.
  • Move away from the noise.
  • Wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

This animated GIF illustrates the three ways to protect your hearing from noise-induced hearing loss: lower the volume, move away from the noise, and use hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

If you practice these healthy habits now, you can help protect your amazing sense of hearing!

Last Updated Date:

April 23, 2019