Noise damage

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Excessive noise is a leading cause of hearing loss.

Worldwide, noise is one of the biggest causes of hearing loss. Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (dB) may cause permanent hearing loss.

Up to 25% of hearing loss in New Zealand is due to noise exposure. Many people are exposed to noise levels at home and at work that may permanently damage their hearing.


Noise-induced hearing loss (caused by noisy environments or occupations) is affecting people at a younger age than in previous generations. The use of personal listening devices and ear buds is believed to be causing hearing loss in young people.

Some people are more sensitive to noise than others, but everyone is affected by excessive noise to some degree. This can depend on:

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    length of exposure

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    previous ear trouble

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    distance from source

The most annoying noise is high-pitched, loud and irregular or on-and-off. But all kinds of excess noise eventually cause hearing damage.

If you have to raise your voice to be heard by someone less than 60cm (2 feet) away, you are in a noisy area and should be wearing ear muffs.

Does noise have other negative effects?

Apart from hearing loss there are many other effects of excessive noise.

Speech interference: In an extra-noisy environment it’s hard to hear people talk – and that’s a safety hazard in itself.

Annoyance: Unpleasant sounds, particularly sudden and uneven ones, may cause fear, anger and emotional wear and tear.

Inefficiency: Noise may cause fatigue or distract attention from demanding or difficult tasks.

These all add up to good reasons to protect your ears.

(Thanks to Oticon for some of the information on this page)