Audiologist Questions Hearing loss

What can trigger noise-induced hearing loss?

How much noise is too much noise? How should I protect my hearing? I like going to concerts and probably go to one per month. I'm nervous I'll end up with early hearing loss.

3 Answers

OSHA limits noise levels to less than 85 Decibels (dB) for workers during an 8-hour shift to prevent hearing loss. The average concert is about 100 dB. The "safe" exposure time at this loudness is, according to OSHA, one hour. Since most concerts last at least an hour and, typically, have an opening act, it is likely that you are causing damage to your hearing.

There are earplugs available that can protect your hearing without drastically impacting fidelity. You'll often see them marketed to musicians as musician earplugs. Some are one-size-fits all, others have multiple sizes included for different sized ears. My preference is for custom hearing protection that have an interchangeable filter that reduces noise anywhere from 10 dB to 25 dB.

I suggest you do two things. First, contact a local audiologist to get a baseline hearing test to see how much--if any--hearing loss you have at this point. Second, while you're there, discuss the best options for you to protect your hearing going forward.
Your are wise to protect your hearing now. Any noise/sound 85 decibels (dB) or greater can lead to hearing damage. For example the sound of an average gas powered lawn mower is around 85 dB.  At 85 dB your exposure to that sound should not exceed 4 hours. The louder the sound, the less time it takes to cause damage. If you enjoy attending concerts, use of hearing protection would be advised. It is not necessary to completely block out the sound, but you do want to reduce the sound. A great option for a frequent concert goer, would be custom fit ear plugs with a sound filter that will reduce the sound without interfering so much with the overall experience. These filters are often changeable for different levels of sound reduction to use in different sound environments. Contact a local audiologist to get impressions of your ears and discuss the options.    Angela R. Sieh Ceretto, M.A., CCC-A, FAAA Audiologist Pinnacle Audiology, LLC 6809 S. Minnesota Ave., Suite 101 605-306-4481  
In general, sounds above 85 dB (decibels) 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. For reference, normal conversation is about 60 dB, a lawn mower is about 90 dB, and a loud rock concert is about 120 dB.

The occasional concert is alright as long as you are distant from the speakers. If you’re worried about your hearing, it’s always a good idea to wear a pair of ear plugs. They are inconspicuous and will help soften the decibels reaching your ear drum.

Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent hearing loss that is caused by being around loud noises over a long period of time. It can also occur after you are exposed to loud noise in a short period of time, such as an explosion.