It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: loud noises can cause permanent hearing loss. And once hearing is gone, you can’t get it back.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) wants to remind people during October – National Protect Your Hearing Month – that noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be prevented. According to NIOSH, about 70% of people who are exposed to loud noise never or seldom wear hearing protection.

Everyday sounds typically do not damage your hearing. However, many people participate in activities that produce harmful sound levels, such as attending loud sporting events and music concerts, and using power tools, which repeated over time will cause hearing loss. Loud noises can damage sensitive parts of the ear, causing hearing loss, ringing or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus), and increased sensitivity to sound (hyperacusis). Repeated exposure to loud noise over the years can damage your hearing—long after exposure has stopped.

Workplace exposures

Millions of workers are exposed to noise in the workplace every day and when uncontrolled, noise exposure may cause permanent hearing loss. Certain chemicals, called ototoxicants, may cause hearing loss or balance problems, regardless of noise exposure. Substances including certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals that contain ototoxicants can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing hearing loss, and/or affect balance. The risk of hearing loss is increased when workers are exposed to these chemicals while working around elevated noise levels. This combination often results in hearing loss that can be temporary or permanent, depending on the level of noise, the dose of the chemical, and the duration of the exposure. This hearing impairment affects many occupations and industries, from machinists to firefighters.


Click here to visit NIOSH’s web page on preventing occupational hearing loss.

More information is available on CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health’s Hearing Loss website on topics like:

  • What Noises Cause Hearing Loss?
  • How Does Loud Noise Cause Hearing Loss?
  • How Do I Know if I Have Hearing Loss Caused by Loud Noise?
  • How Do I Prevent Hearing Loss from Loud Noise? and
  • What If I Already Have Hearing Loss?”