“Say What?” The Critical Importance of Hearing Protection

Like most hearing people, many of us don’t give a moment’s thought to the importance of hearing in one’s life…..until it is gone.

As we go about our daily lives, we need to be aware of situations that expose us to potential damage to the ear and resulting hearing loss. Being aware of our environment extends not only to the workplace but in our extracurricular activities. What can we do to be aware of potentially harmful situations?

Our daily environment consists of exposure to radios, television, MP3’s, iPod’s, washing machines, automobiles, buses, and trucks. On job sites, we are exposed to numerous loud sounds such as power actuated equipment, jackhammers, high-pressure steam tests, etc. When one is exposed to harmful sounds, sensitive structures of the inner ear can be injured causing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). This can occur from sudden loud sounds (like an explosion) or continuous exposure to loud sounds over a long period of time.

This really is not something that can affect me…….right?   Statistics show over 30 million people are at risk in the workplace, recreational settings, and at home to NIHL. One may not suspect but NIHL is the most common work-related disease. Currently, 10 million Americans have permanently damaged their hearing.

Surely I would feel pain if I was exposing myself to a potentially damaging situation….right? Pain is not a predecessor to NIHL. Prevention has to come with an awareness of your surroundings. No warnings of pain are there to remind us that we are exposing ourselves to harm. We only have our own self-awareness to rely on. Assembled below are tips that can save your hearing and should be shared with those in your family exposed to potential hazards. Remember that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. Take a moment at the dinner table to share.

There are three things to consider about noise: How loud. How long. How close.


  • If you have to raise your voice to speak to a person next to you to overcome surrounding sounds, you are in a potentially too loud environment.
  • An extreme noise like a firecracker, experienced at close range, can damage hearing permanently in an instant.
  • If anyone in your family uses a firearm for recreational shooting and does not use hearing protection . . . damage


  • Repeated exposure to engines and machines like motorcycles or chain saws can erode hearing more slowly. The result is the same: irreversible hearing loss.
  • If your teenager is doing lawn work for the summer, using a gasoline engine and not wearing hearing protection, hour after hour, it’s doing damage.
  • Regular exposures to sounds of 110 decibels (and higher) for more than one minute is a risk of permanent hearing loss.
  • No more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure of 100 decibels is recommended.
    • Rock concerts and firecrackers can be 140 decibels!
    • Loud bass in cars (when other cars can feel the vibration and hear the noise) and snowmobiles can be up to 120 decibels!
    • A chainsaw is 110 decibels
    • Woodshop is 100 decibels
    • Lawnmowers and motorcycles are 90 decibels
    • City traffic noise is 80-85 decibels
    • Normal conversation is 60 decibels
    • Refrigerator humming is 40-45 decibels



If you are standing next to a person wearing a personal radio with earphones . . . and you can hear the lyrics to the song . . . damage.

If your kids are watching you cut wood with a power saw to build a bookshelf in your basement and you’re not wearing protection . . . you are all experiencing damage.

Prolonged exposure to any noise above 90 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss!


What can I do to protect my hearing? …….. Be prepared. Carry earplugs or other protection with you. At all our job sites, ear protection is made available. Be aware of this potentially harmful situation.

Information from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. ; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the article “Prevention of Noise Induced Hearing Loss” by Richard W. Danielson, Ph.D. National Space Biomedical Research Institute and Baylor School of Medicine, Houston, Tx.