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Hearing Loss Prevention

Approximately 36 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss and one out of three have developed their hearing loss due to noise exposure.

It can affect anyone of us regardless of age. Over 26 million Americans ages 20 to 69 years old already have permanent damage to their high frequency hearing that may be due to noise exposure. Did you know that more than five million children in the US between the ages of 6 to 19 reportedly have hearing loss directly caused by loud noises? As one of the most common causes of hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be prevented.

What causes Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)?

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the tiny structures called hair cells in the inner ear. These hair cells convert the sound that we hear (acoustical energy) into potentials (electrical signals) that travel down the auditory pathway to the brain. Hair cells that have been damaged from noise exposure cannot grow back and cause permanent sensorineural hearing loss.

What can you do to protect your hearing?

Noise can be harmful if you are exposed to it for an extended amount of time or if it is a very loud impact noise that is short in duration.

You may come into contact with harmful noises in any number of situations during your daily routine, at work or at home. Always be aware and alert to potentially noisy occupational or recreational activities.

The following work and recreational environments may put you at risk for noise exposure:

  • Firefighters
  • Police officers
  • Factory workers
  • Construction workers
  • Military personnel
  • Musicians
  • Entertainment professionals
  • Setting off fireworks/fire crackers
  • Listening to music at a concert or dance club
  • Shooting a gun
  • Lawn equipment or tools
  • Sporting events
  • Motorcycles

It is important to follow some basic rules to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can be prevented if you remember to:

  • Turn it down
  • Walk away
  • Protect your ears

More specifically, you can:

  • Limit your amount of time that you are exposed to noise
  • Wear hearing protection (foam earplugs, ear muffs, custom hearing protection)
  • Turn down the volume of your radio, MP3 player, television, etc.
  • Avoid medications that may be harmful to your hearing
Noise Thermometer

Signs that your environment may be too loud:

  • You have difficulty hearing someone who is within three feet of you
  • You have pain in your ears, ringing or buzzing (tinnitus), and/or difficulty understanding speech after being in a loud setting

Remember only you can protect your hearing and prevent any kind of hearing loss!


Facts about noise-induced hearing loss.
American Academy of Audiology (n.d.).
Retrieved March 1, 2010

Preventing noise-induced occupational hearing loss position statement.
American Academy of Audiology (October 2003).
Retrieved March 1, 2010

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To find a head and neck specialist for your needs, contact the Head & Neck Institute at 216.444.8500 (or toll-free 1.800.223.2273, ext. 48500)

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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