Hearing damage and noise-induced hearing loss due to too many decibels

Music players and telephones can cause hearing damage if they produce sound with too many decibels. But not only music players and telephones are potential causes of hearing damage. This danger also exists in factories and construction. The noise level in discos, where visitors often have to shout in each other’s ears to be heard, is also often too high. A form of hearing damage that can then occur is noise-induced hearing loss, in which certain frequencies or frequency ranges can no longer be heard. Noise-induced hearing loss once acquired cannot be recovered. In work situations, occupational health and safety legislation offers protection.

Decreased hearing and beeps or whistles

Hearing damage usually manifests itself as hearing loss, but other effects are also possible. After hearing damage, beeps or whistling sounds can also occur, which can remain very annoying for a long time.

Noise levels below and above 85 decibels

Since January 2013, music players are legally allowed to produce no louder than 85 decibels, which is comparable to street noise in busy city traffic. But not all equipment complies with the law and the cheaper equipment in particular sometimes reaches too many decibels. According to the NVWA (Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority), noise levels below 80 decibels pose less danger if the hearing is exposed to it for a maximum of eight hours per day. Sudden deafness can occur at sound levels above 100 decibels.

Percentage of hearing damage caused by music players

Hearing is very sensitive to prolonged exposure to loud noise. In the Netherlands it is thought that as many as 25 percent of music player users have suffered hearing damage. Researchers from the European Union arrive at a considerably lower number and keep it at 5 to 10 percent.

Noise-induced hearing loss after prolonged exposure

A common form of hearing damage is so-called noise-induced hearing loss. This phenomenon occurs after prolonged exposure to noise. Noise is then understood to mean: loud unpleasant sounds. There is no exact limit of decibels for noise, but a generally accepted standard is that above 80 decibels can be considered noise.

Difficult to understand people

Noise-induced hearing loss is sometimes described as a form of deafness in which certain frequencies or frequency ranges are no longer heard. These areas mainly include the speaking voice, which makes understanding people difficult or even impossible without a hearing aid. Also, in company everything sounds like mush. Noise-induced hearing loss once developed will not disappear. If age-related deafness is added later in life, understanding other people will become very difficult.

Occupational health and safety legislation for protection

Until the 1980s, the safe noise limit was exceeded in many workplaces and people worked without sufficient protection. Since the 1980s, other standards have been included in occupational health and safety legislation. Currently, an employer is obliged to provide hearing protectors to employees and is also obliged to ensure that they are used. To prevent damage, for example, earplugs can be used, which are now more in demand than before. This means that more people are becoming aware of the possible harm.

Temporary exposure to too many decibels

Temporary exposure to too many decibels can cause damage that disappears after some time. However, as this happens more often, the risk of permanent damage increases. A single visit to a disco with too many decibels will not immediately lead to hearing damage, but if you visit regularly without protection, that risk is certainly present. Staff at a disco where the sound equipment produces too many decibels is obliged to use hearing protection under the Working Conditions Act.

Agreements and concerns

The VNPF (Association of Dutch Popping Stages and Festivals) and the VVEM (Association of Event Makers) and the National Hearing Foundation try to limit the noise level of performances through agreements, but cannot enforce compliance with agreements alone. The National Hearing Foundation is therefore concerned about the hearing of young people between 12 and 25 years old in particular who have already suffered hearing damage and many young people between 18 and 35 years old suffer from ringing noises or tinnitus after walking.