One of the major causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises sometimes over a prolonged amount of time – noise induced tinnitus. As I have written in previous posts, this poses one of my major fears for the future of this yet incurable disease – the increase in noise induced tinnitus/noise induced hearing loss that our current young people will face from listening to loud music in earphones. Only the other day I was in Kilkenny city when a young guy passed by listening to earphones and even though he was on a loud street with traffic etc I could still pick out the song…really silly but like a lot of young people, he is in what I call the high risk category. In one way it would be interesting to document some of these people. Perhaps a blog post topic in itself for the future. The one thing that tinnitus sufferers say is that if they could go back and take measures (if noise induced) then they would.

So, how loud is loud?

When we speak to each other, we operate at around 70 decibels. Whispering would be 35 decibels for comparison. A concert could be 150 decibels.

decibel chart showing how loudness affects tinnitus

Decibel exposure chart measurements

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states, “Long or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.”

In fact, for the number of decibels you go over 85db, you should be reducing the exposure time in half for each increase.

Chart showing which decibels are dangerous and when danger sets in

decibel exposure chart


The American EPA did a study however which contradicts the above figure of 85db stating that the accepted safe listening volume over a 24 hour period is 70db. Courtesy . It’s important to note that these calculations, be they from whoever are calculated on calculated average exposure both at work/school and at home over a lifetime. With life expectancy increasing all the time, you would honestly expect this figure to go downwards.

I know it’s not the same, but as an interesting study which is related, the jama network of internal medicine conducted a big study into hearing loss in americans over a long number of years. The results are scary;

We estimate that 30.0 million or 12.7% of Americans 12 yearS and older had bilateral hearing loss from 2001 through 2008, and this estimate increases to 48.1 million or 20.3% when also including individuals with unilateral hearing loss (Table). Overall, the prevalence of hearing loss increases with every age decade. The prevalence of hearing loss is lower in women than in men and black vs white individuals across nearly all age decades. Courtesy

Measuring the volume

If like me, you use earphones or headphones (using them as I type this!) then you may want to measure the DB’s. Here’s one piece of equipment that seems to be getting great reviews

You can of course download an app for your phone. A good description of apps can be found here;

Either way, it will shock you how quickly and easily you will be reaching the 80db mark.

What can be done?

Wherein it is pretty difficult to do, it’s about informing and public awareness. If we look at the success that Ireland had for example in implementing the smoking ban in public places and work places (we were the first country in the world to do so ) we can see that with government support and awareness that this can be achieved.

  1. I would propose that we could start at schools and having an awareness programme to show how look after the ears. Perhaps linked in with existing curriculum.
  2. Meter levels on the walls of clubs/venues/cinemas etc  with a chart beside them showing what the numbers actually mean – surely this couldn’t be too hard?

Where you live can mean the difference to developing tinnitus or hearing issues

If you live in an urban environment, you are of course more subjected to loud noises more so than those people who live in more rural places.

This is an interesting take on the noises that an urban dweller can expect.

I hope that was of some help! Stay out of noisy situations people and if you’re not sure, at least download a basic app that isn’t accurate but will give some idea.



Update 27/02/17

Just had to share some very interesting stats on this from an article I read today, you can check it out here; in this they conducted a report on how loud young people listened to music on their ear phones.

The research, which was conducted amongst over 1,000 adults in Ireland, also found that young Irish people aged 18-24 years listen to music via their mobile phones at ‘dangerous decibel’ levels and do so for two hours and five minutes a day, twice the recommended limit.

Just under one in five, meanwhile, deliberately set the volume to the maximum loudness while worryingly, over four in ten (42%) have experienced ringing and buzzing in their ears and risk causing permanent damage as a result.

Tinnitus (ringing in ears) usually begins at 127 dB and can be an early indicator of hearing loss.

It was also found that just under half of Irish adults (48%) listen to music on their personal device using in-ear earphones, which can potentially cause more hearing harm than headphones. This climbs to 74% among a younger audience of 18-24 year olds.

Hidden Hearing had the following advice to protect your hearing while listening to personal devices:

  • If you are listening with headphones to your personal device and someone is talking to you in a normal voice at arm’s length away, you should be able to hear them clearly

  • Set a safe listening limit on your devices. Go to settings to override the 100dB (decibel) volume limit setting

  • Observe the 60/60 rule – listen at 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day

  • Take regular breaks




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