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Hearing Hazards in Everyday Life

Any repeated high-volume experiences or 1-shot booms could damage the delicate nerve cells of your inner ear. Once damaged, these cells do not grow back. Tasha Reck, AuD, audiologist with LVPG Ear, Nose and Throat, says you need to be aware of potential hazards to your hearing. “The ability to hear is a gift you don’t want to compromise,” she says. “Be sure to use hearing protection when exposed to loud sounds, like power tools, and be cautious with accessories like ear buds that can project loud sounds into the ear.”

A good rule of thumb to remember is that damage is happening if you have to shout to be heard over the racket. Here are some everyday activities that carry with them possible hearing hazards – and a reminder to protect the gift of hearing.

Power tools

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has done a good job of setting safe noise levels in industry. Although many people use ear protection at work, they often aren’t as careful at home, experts say. A motorcycle, firecrackers, and small firearms all produce sound between 120 and 150 decibels (dB), enough to damage hearing, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).


Firearms shooters are exposed to extremely loud but short-term sound when a weapon is fired. All shooters should wear hearing protectors even when shooting small caliber weapons such as a .22 caliber rifle. The NIDCD reports that long and repeated exposure to noise levels at 85 dB or higher can result in hearing loss. Sound levels of firearms may reach 120 or greater decibels during firing. Here are some examples reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • 12-gauge shotgun, 154.6 to 162.7 dB
  • 0.45-70 rifle, 155.2 to 159.9 dB
  • 0.30-06 rifle, 158.7 to 163.1 dB

Kids' toys and portable media players

High-pitched baby toys and bike horns give off quick bursts of damaging noise when pressed or squeezed over and over again. The American Academy of Pediatrics also warns parents that media players like iPods or MP3 players can cause hearing loss. Earphones or ear buds for these items can reach damaging noise levels up to 130 dB.

Rush hour

Busy traffic and highway construction can cause ringing or a sense of fullness in the ears. These are key signs that hearing damage has happened. When highway noise gets extremely loud, drive with the windows up. According to the CDC, traffic sounds of 85 dB or greater for long periods of time can create lasting hearing loss.

CTA: Think you may have a hearing loss? Get more information at LVHN.org/ENTguide.