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Everyone. No matter how old or young you are, too much exposure to loud noise can permanently damage your hearing. Whether it’s the screech of a chain saw, the sudden blast of a hunting rifle, or the roar of a lawn mower, exposure to loud sounds can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL is serious. Some 30 million people are at risk in the workplace, in recreational settings, and at home. In fact, it is the second most self reported work-related illness or injury. Already, 22 million American adults ages 20 to 69 have permanently damaged their hearing from exposure to loud sounds.
To help prevent NIHL, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) has teamed with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and diverse national organizations to create the WISE EARS!® health education campaign. WISE EARS!® is spreading the word that:
No matter what kinds of work and recreation are a part of your life, you can take steps to prevent NIHL.
Visit WISE EARS!® at www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/wise/
Sounds at or above 85 decibels (dB) can damage your ears. A decibel is a unit that measures the intensity of sound. Sounds that humans can hear are measured on a scale from zero to 140. A normal conversation is about 60 dB. Chainsaws, hammer drills, and bulldozers ring in at over 100 dB. So if you are a construction worker, harmful sounds may be a regular part of your job. The same goes for people working around lawn mowers and factory machinery every day. Airport workers and farmers are two more groups that are regularly exposed to loud noise. However, loud noise does not have to be an everyday happening to cause damage. One-time exposure to very loud noises, such as the sound of a gun firing at close range, can harm your ears permanently.
See the How Loud Is Too Loud bookmark.
Wear ear plugs or special earmuffs when you are exposed to dangerous levels of noise; they can keep your hearing from being damaged. Hearing protection is important any time you're exposed to loud noise.
Several types of protective earplugs and earmuffs are available in most pharmacies, hardware stores, and sporting goods stores.
You can share what you know about NIHL with your family, friends, classmates, and co-workers. If you have children, explain to them that hearing is delicate and important. Call their attention to sounds that are harmful. Encourage them to protect their ears by avoiding loud noises or using special earmuffs. If they are too young to protect themselves, do it for them. For your co-workers and other family members, make a copy of this flyer and share what you know about NIHL.
If you have more questions about NIHL, want a full list of WISE EARS!® coalition members, or would like a WISE EARS!® information packet, call NIDCD at 1-800-241-1044. NIDCD and the WISE EARS!® campaign can also be reached on the Web at www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/wise/.
NIH Publication No. 00-4848