Health News


Why is noise hazardous to hearing? The most vital area for normal hearing is the inner ear or cochlea. It is the area permanently damaged by excessive noise. Very loud sounds make significant vibrations inside the ear that distort and tear the very delicate membranes and structures.

Why don't we avoid loud sounds? The inner ear does not sense sharp pain. It does not warn you. Most people think no noise pain, no danger. Wrong!

Even if loud noise does not produce any sharp pain, it may still cause you damage. If you are continually exposed to loud noise (e.g. 90 decibels) over a day it can produce permanent damage to the cochlea without any sharp pain to warn you. Extremely loud sound (e.g. 130 decibels) may stimulate pain fibres in your eardrum signalling an earache.

Protecting your hearing Avoid loud noise. Loud bangs tend to be more damaging than continuous noise, particularly when they occur with no warning, which is mostly the case. Like sun exposure and skin damage, the amount of hearing damage is related to the intensity of the noise and the length of time you are exposed to it.

  • Do not deliberately subject yourself to very high sound levels such as noisy machinery or loud rock concerts.
  • For musicians, who are particularly at risk, special plugs are available.
  • Wearing personal stereos, instead of ear muffs, increases the noise dose because listeners turn them up to blank out background noise and therefore increase the risk of damage.
  • Be aware that your risk increases if you are occupationally exposed to solvents or toxins or if you are taking certain drugs.
  • Talk to your occupational health and safety officer about making your workshop quieter.
  • If you cannot avoid loud sound, then you should protect your ears with earplugs or ear muffs. Balls of cottonwool or paper tissue offer little protection.
  • You should give your ears frequent rest from noise.
  • When you attend discos, motor races or fireworks displays we recommend that you wear earplugs. Learn to fit them correctly, because poorly fitted earplugs offer little protection.


Jenny Hill
College nurse

Reference: Australian Hearing