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The effects of noise on hearing vary among people. Some people's ears
are more sensitive to loud sounds, especially at certain frequencies. (Frequency means how low or high a tone is.) But any sound that
is loud enough and lasts long enough can damage hearing and lead to
A sound's loudness is measured in decibels (dB). Normal conversation
is about 60 dB, a lawn mower is about 90 dB, and a loud rock concert is about
120 dB. In general, sounds above 85 are harmful, depending on how long and how
often you are exposed to them and whether you wear hearing protection, such as
earplugs or earmuffs.
Following is a table of the decibel level of a number of
80–89 (sounds above 85 dB are harmful)
As loudness increases, the amount of time you can hear the sound
before damage occurs decreases. Hearing protectors reduce the loudness of sound
reaching the ears, making it possible to listen to louder sounds for a longer
An easy way to become aware of potentially harmful noise is to pay
attention to warning signs that a sound might be damaging to your hearing. A
sound may be harmful if:
Most cases of noise-induced hearing loss are caused by repeated
exposure to moderate levels of noise over many years, not by a few cases of
very loud noise. Wearing hearing protectors can help prevent damage from both
moderate and loud noise.
If your workplace has harmful noise levels, plan ahead and wear
hearing protection. People who may be regularly exposed to harmful noise
because of their jobs include:
Current as of:
April 8, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Charles M. Myer, III, MD - Otolaryngology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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