Unlike the eye, which can close its lid in a fraction of a second, the ear is unable to protect itself from noise on its own. We cannot deliberately shut off our hearing or temporarily switch it off. Our ears and brain are always ready to process sounds, no matter how loud. 

This can be incredibly problematic, as excessively-loud noise can cause the hair cells within our ears to either suffer damage or die off entirely. People in loud workplaces like construction sites or airport runways run a particularly high risk of damage. In worst-case scenarios, this can result in permanent hearing loss. 

As such, in order to continue enjoying the full spectrum of sound, we need to do what we can to keep our ears out of harm's way. 

How Loud Noises Damage the Ear

Excessively loud music. The sound of construction equipment. The roar of a jet engine. The raucous din of a sporting event. 

The world is absolutely brimming with noises that can cause hearing loss. Even constant noise of the type we hear on our morning commute is classed as being hazardous and has the potential to cause long-term damage. The hair cells inside our ears eventually become overworked and start to wear down, becoming gradually less effective over time. 
In addition to hearing loss, excessive noise can also lead to tinnitus or a condition known as sonic trauma, a severe injury to the inner ear which often has tinnitus as a precursor.

Persistent noise doesn't just impact our ears, either. Each disruptive noise puts the body in a state of alert, causing the release of stress hormones, raised blood pressure, a faster heartbeat, and more rapid breathing. Further consequences of noise stress may include concentration problems, impaired performance, sleep difficulties, high blood pressure, and even cardiovascular disease. 

How to Know if You Need Hearing Protection

Although the threshold where we begin experiencing pain from loud noise is set at approximately 120 decibels (dB) the point at which noise starts to feel stressful or disruptive varies from person to person. That said, it's generally accepted that anything over 80 dB is starting to veer into the danger zone. But what exactly is a dB, and exactly how loud is it?

Strategies for Protecting Your Hearing

To avoid hearing loss, we'd advise reading through the following tips. They're easy to understand, and by adhering to them you'll help reduce the chances of your ears being exposed to harmful noise. You'll be able to continue enjoying problem-free hearing without worry (at least for the immediate future).
Turn down your media
Ensure that you do not go above a certain volume level with music you're listening to or shows you're watching. It's better to keep it quieter.
Cut down on the noise
Reduce the number of parallel sources of noise. Simultaneous conversations, music on the computer, and running electrical appliances can place great strain on the ears.
Invest in quieter appliances
Look for the dB rating when purchasing electrical appliances such as fridges, washing machines, and dishwashers. The lower the rating, the quieter it is, and the better it is for your ears
Maintain distance
If there's a loud sound and you can identify its source, put as much space between yourself and the noise as possible.
Protect your ears!
If you hear a loud and sudden noise, put your hands over your ears and move away. Adults need to be reminded to do this, for some reason, even though children do it reflexively. 
Wear hearing protection
If you're doing anything noisy such as sawing wood or mowing the lawn, wear hearing protection. A simple handsaw, for instance, can generate a level of noise up to 110 dB, just below the pain threshold. 

What Types of Hearing Protection are Available?

Capsule hearing protection

Essentially earmuffs, capsule hearing protection provides excellent sound insulation and can be worn either directly on the head or attached to a safety helmet.  Some models fold easily and can be used in the event of very loud noises or short-term exposure.

Foam earplugs

Made from dermatologically safe foam, they can be rolled into a narrow cone before insertion to help them adhere to the shape of the ear canal.

Plastic earplugs

These earplugs feature grip stems and a cord, depending on the model. This makes them quicker to insert and remove. They are thus ideal for working environments with alternating loud and quiet periods. They are also available mounted on a band.


Essentially, earmolds are custom earplugs, made from an impression of the wearer's ear canal. They provide a high level of comfort and come with various sound filters. There are earmolds that are specifically designed for musicians, athletes, and swimmers.

Cotton earplugs

The cheapest option for single-use earplugs, cotton plugs still offer a good level of protection.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Hearing Has Been Damaged

Even if you follow the advice outlined here flawlessly, it's not guaranteed to protect you from hearing damage. There's always a chance that you may develop a condition, or lose your hearing later in life. If you've started to experience vertigo, pain, or simply trouble hearing and understanding your surroundings, book an appointment with a hearing specialist immediately.

Our audiologists are happy to help with a free hearing assessment, and whatever else you might need.