Hearing loss prevention

Learn how to protect yourself from hearing loss.

Most causes of hearing loss are impossible to prevent. However, noise-induced hearing loss is not.

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is hearing loss caused by either exposure to a loud impulse sound like a gunshot or explosion, or prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. It can happen immediately or gradually over time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 40 million US adults have noise-induced hearing loss, which is preventable.

Noises below 75 decibels (dB), are unlikely to cause hearing loss. Sounds 85 dB and above can. Below are the decibel levels for common sounds — and their associated hearing loss risks.


Preventing noise-induced hearing loss

Fortunately, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. Preventing noise-induced hearing loss requires you to do three things:

  1. Know what sounds are too loud (anything above 85 dB)
  2. Either avoid loud sounds or limit your exposure or proximity to them
  3. Wear hearing protection when you can’t avoid or move a safe distance from loud noises

10 tips to help protect your hearing

  1. Use hearing protection around loud sounds. Foam earplugs are an economical solution, or consider purchasing custom earplugs to best reduce the sound levels.
  2. Turn the volume down on the TV, radio, music, etc.
  3. Avoid loud or noisy activities/places, when possible.
  4. Limit your time exposed to loud sounds.
  5. When listening to loud sounds (e.g., music, concerts, fitness classes, etc.), take breaks from the noise.
  6. Move away from the loudest sound source (e.g., speakers, fireworks, etc.).
  7. Give your ears time to recover after being exposed to loud noises.
  8. Do not put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear! This includes cotton swabs, bobby pins, keys, paperclips, or anything else you might use to clean or scratch your ears.
  9. Keep moving! Exercise keeps the blood pumping throughout the body, including the ears. This keeps the internal parts of the ears healthy.
  10. Get your hearing tested, especially if you experience a change in your hearing, ringing or fullness in your ears over 24 hours.
Next: Treatment

Frequently asked questions

For the most part, hearing loss is not preventable. Hearing loss caused by aging (the leading cause), disease, genetics, injury or biology cannot be prevented. However, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) — the second leading cause of hearing loss — is preventable.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to sounds 85 decibels (dB) and above can damage your hearing. The louder or higher decibel the sound is, the less exposure time is required for hearing loss to occur.

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While there is little you can do to prevent most causes of hearing loss, you can prevent noise-induced hearing loss (the second most common cause) by following good hearing protection practices.

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