Prevention of Hearing Loss

Causes of Hearing Loss

There are many causes of hearing loss that are beyond our control, such as those caused by heredity. We can’t pick our parents and our genetic make-up - though with continuing advances in gene research, clinical applications, this may be changing. But for now, we have to deal with the hand that heredity has dealt us.

In Some Cases, Hearing Loss Can be Prevented

Ototoxic Drugs

These are medications that are toxic to the ears and can cause hearing loss, sometimes accompanied by tinnitus. We may have some options; however, about the medications we take. It is always a good idea to ask a physician if a hearing loss is one of the possible side-effects. If it is, and there is a substitute medication that would work just as well, then that would be the one to take.

Examples of Otoxic Drugs

  • some over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin in high doses
  • some antibiotics
  • some chemotherapy drugs
  • loop diuretics
  • some anti-inflammatory drugs

Signs of Ototoxicity (in order of frequency)

  • Development of tinnitus in one or both ears
  • Intensification of existing tinnitus or the appearance of a new sound
  • Fullness or pressure in the ears other than being caused by infection
  • Hearing loss in an unaffected ear or the progression o an existing loss.
  • Development of vertigo or a spinning sensation usually aggravated by motion which may or may not be accompanied by nausea

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss – Completely Preventable

  • A major cause of hearing loss in our society is noise exposure. Tiny hair cells in the ear are damaged when assaulted by loud noise. Once those hair cells are destroyed they cannot be replaced.
  • A noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause for its occurrence in our society and it’s completely preventable.
  • Repeated and lengthy exposure to loud sound – whether is it music or a jackhammer - will eventually produce a sensorineural hearing loss.
Damage Risk Criterion

As the sound level increases, the time span one can be exposed to it is reduced. Each day we create more hearing losses in our society with our tolerance of the ear-shattering cacophony that surrounds us.

One in Five Adolescents Has Hearing Loss: Ear Buds May Be to Blame

  • According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 17, 2010, “Listening to loud music though ear buds – the tiny electronic speakers that fit into ears – is probably the main reason that more adolescents are losing some of their hearing.”
  • “Once you have a hearing loss, there’s a greater risk of that hearing loss progressing as you get older.” (Dr. Slattery, USC, Los Angeles)
  • “Hearing loss may affect teens’ social development and education.” (Gary Curhan, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School)
  • Parents can begin monitoring use of personal listening devices by their children. A good rule of thumb is that if the child is wearing ear buds and the parent is able to hear the sound while standing next to them, then the music is too loud.


Musicians are particularly at risk. It is their job to listen to the sounds that they and their group are producing, and these may be as high as 135 dB. They have no choice to do this as often as daily; this is their career and their livelihood.

Musicians earplugs are available that can help. The newest and best version reduce the sound equally all across the spectrum, from low to high frequencies. Everything sounds just as good as it did before, only softer.

A less expensive, though still effective earplug, can be obtained for the students in a school music program.

How to Reduce the Damage to Hearing from Noise

Your ears can be your warning system for potentially dangerous noises. The noise is too loud when:

  • You have to raise your voice to be understood by someone standing nearby
  • The noise hurts your ears
  • You develop a buzzing or ringing sound in your ears, even temporarily (indicates some hair cells have died)
  • You don't hear as well as you normally do until several hours after you get away from the noise.

How to Protect Yourself When Around Loud Noise

  • Block the noise (wear earplugs or earmuffs)
  • Avoid the noise (put hands over ears if you can’t walk away)
  • Turn down the volume

Decibel Loudness Comparison Chart

  • 150 dB = fireworks at 3 feet
  • 140 dB = firearms, jet engine
  • 130 dB = jackhammer
  • 120 dB = jet plane takeoff, siren
Extremely Loud
  • 110 dB = maximum output of some MP3 players, model airplane, chain saw
  • 106 dB = gas lawn mower, snow blower
  • 100 dB = hand drill, pneumatic drill
  • 90 dB = subway, passing motorcycle
Very Loud
  • 80–90 dB = blow-dryer, kitchen blender, food processor
  • 70 dB = busy traffic, vacuum cleaner, alarm clock
  • 60 dB = typical conversation, dishwasher, clothes dryer
  • 50 dB = moderate rainfall
  • 40 dB = quiet room
  • 30 dB = whisper, quiet library