Noise-related hearing loss: when do decibels become dangerous?

Whilst most of us know the occupational risk of working in a high-noise environment, many Australians remain unaware of the potentially harmful noises they expose themselves to on a daily basis through recreational activities. It’s thought that exposure to both workplace and recreational noise could be responsible for the growing number of Australians developing hearing loss at a younger age. So how loud is too loud? And what can we do to protect ourselves from recreational noises?

When do sounds become dangerous?

When it comes to noise, there are two factors that can affect your risk of developing noise-related hearing loss: level of sound and length of exposure. Sound is measured in decibels, and the general rule goes as follows: the higher the decibels, the less time you can safely listen to a noise. Whilst short exposure to extremely loud noises such as gunshots and explosions can result in hearing loss or deafness, studies have also shown continued exposure to noises of 80-85 decibels and above can lead to noise-related hearing loss over time. To give you an idea of different activities and their decibels, here are some of the sounds you may be exposed to on a regular basis.

  • Normal conversion: 60-65 decibels
  • Cinema: Some films reach over 100 decibels
  • Nightclub: 110 decibels
  • MP3 player on full volume: 112 decibels

* Data gathered from NHS website

Steps to reduce noise exposure

Know your sounds – The first step towards reducing your risk of noise-related hearing loss is to know when you are being exposed to high levels of noise. This may sound simple, but you may be surprised by the everyday activities that could be posing a risk to your hearing. There are plenty of apps that can measure decibels, so make sure you remain aware of when that dial needs turning down a little!

Turn down the volume – If you’re a fan of the old MP3 player, make sure you’re not going overboard with the volume. If you can’t hear external sounds when your headphones are in, chances are the volume is too loud. As a rule of thumb, stick to the 60:60 rule – listen to your music at 60% volume for no more than one hour per day.


Give your ears a break – Just as your body needs to recover after exercise, your ears will need to rest after exposure to noise. If you are exposed to a high noise environment such as a nightclub or music gig, give your ears a regular break from the source of loud sounds. Allowing for rest time after the event itself will also reduce your chances of long-term hearing problems.

Wear hearing protection – If you’re regularly exposed to high noise environments as a result of your occupation or hobbies, wearing custom ear plugs is a great way to reduce noise levels whilst allowing you to hear the sounds that matter.

Protect your hearing with your Perth audiologists

Whether you’re looking to prevent hearing damage before it happens or already experiencing the impact of noise-related hearing loss, the experienced audiologists at The Art of Hearing audiology clinics can help you take the right steps towards preventing further damage. We offer a range of custom ear plugs and audiometric testing for individuals who are regularly exposed to high noise environments. For more information about our custom hearing protection, or to organise an audiometric test with one of our Perth audiologists, contact The Art of Hearing today.



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