October is National Protect Your Hearing Month!

Stethoscope and push pins holding up notes that say noise, induced, hearing, loss

CDC supports “National Protect Your Hearing Month,” and encourages people to use hearing protection (earplugs and noise-cancelling earmuffs) to protect their hearing from loud noises. Moreover, to get their hearing checked if they think there might be a problem with their hearing.

Early identification and intervention for hearing loss is important. Many people live with unidentified hearing loss, often failing to realize that they are missing certain sounds and words. Checking one’s hearing would be the first step towards addressing the issue.

Here's something you might not know... Pain or discomfort in your ears can be an early warning sign of hearing loss caused by loud noise.

Pain or discomfort in your ears can be an early warning sign of hearing loss.

Time to ask your doctor to check your hearing.

Time to ask your doctor to check your hearing.

Did You Know?

Repeated exposure to loud noise over the years can damage your hearing—long after exposure has stopped.

This is just one of the many informative facts available on CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health’s new hearing loss website.

Think you are well aware of how to protect yourself? When it comes to hearing loss, we can all think of the usual suspects: listening to fireworks, attending sporting events, entertainment venues, and loud concerts.

However, you may be surprised at what you do not know. For example, everyday activities such as using power tools, mowing the lawn, or attending a fitness class with loud music can damage hearing.

The site features detailed information on the following topics: “What Noises Cause Hearing Loss?” “How Does Loud Noise Cause Hearing Loss?” “How Do I Know if I Have Hearing Loss Caused by Loud Noise?” “How Do I Prevent Hearing Loss from Loud Noise?” and “What If I Already Have Hearing Loss?”

Browse the pages to discover critical information you are likely unaware of.

Useful Info

  • Is the noise too loud? If you need to shout to make yourself heard, yes.
  • After a very loud event, such as a concert or football game, normal hearing usually returns within a few hours to a few days—however, repeated exposure to loud noises will eventually damage the inner ear permanently.
  • Ways to protect your hearing include turning the volume down, of course, and also taking periodic breaks from the noise and using hearing protection, such as earplugs and hearing protection earmuffs.
  • Signs that you may have hearing loss include difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds (e.g., doorbell, telephone, alarm clock) and difficulty understanding conversations in a noisy place.

By the Numbers

To protect the public health and welfare, in 1974 the Environmental Protection Agency determined a 24-hour exposure limit level of 70 dB would produce minimal hearing loss.  In 1999, the World Health Organization Guidelines for Community Noise concluded that a 24-hour equivalent sound level of 70 dB or below would avoid hearing impairment in 95% of people, even over a lifetime exposure.  In addition, exposure to impulse noise (abrupt high intensity sounds of short duration [e.g., whistles, horns, cannon blasts, fireworks]) should never exceed a peak sound pressure of 140 dB peak in adults, and 120 dB in children.

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in the United States. Almost twice as many people report hearing loss as report diabetes or cancer. In the United States, about 40 million adults aged 20–69 years have noise-induced hearing loss, and about 1 in 4 adults who report “excellent to good” hearing already have hearing damage.

Think that hearing damage is usually workplace-related? Actually, activities away from work can damage hearing just as much as a noisy job. Over half of all adults with hearing damage do not have noisy jobs.

The average person is born with about 16,000 hair cells within their inner ear. These cells allow your brain to detect sounds. Damaged inner ear cells do not grow back. So, protect your hearing, and if you already have hearing loss, or are experiencing pain, discomfort, or ringing in the ears, take steps to keep it from getting worse. Remember, there is no treatment for hearing loss!

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Page last reviewed: September 30, 2019