Loud Noise Can Bring On Tinnitus

Quite apart from possible medical issues, medication, or lifestyle situations; possibly the biggest contributor leading to ringing, buzzing, or even noise induced hearing loss (HIHL) is excessive noise. This can be in the workplace, or in a social situation. Nightclubs, football matches, concerts etc, all play a significant role in providing an environment that can lead to tinnitus. This is quite apart from noisy workplaces such as steel works, forestry or anywhere that uses noisy equipment.

Where noisy workplaces are concerned, the danger is somewhat alleviated by the fact that we are encouraged to wear ear protectors when using or being subjected to excessive noise. It is in fact expected that a business owner will provide such ear protection, either in the form of ear-plugs, or ear mufflers.

However when it comes to social occasions or leisure times, this is not so obvious. In fact it could be said that we simply do not expect noise from concerts, games, or even the cinema to have any adverse effect on our hearing – this is perverse! Noise is noise, no matter what the occasion. In the workplace it is reccomended that ear protection is worn when the noise levels exceed 85 decibels. Any concert venue however can regularly exceed over 100 decibels, and yet you will seldom see folks wandering around with ear protection!

Noise Induced Hearing Loss;

Quite apart from tinnitus, permanent hearing loss induced by loud noise is also a big danger to anyone who does not take the proper precautions in noisy situations. Indeed hearing loss and tinnitus often go hand-in-hand to some degree or other. Loud noise can cause real damage to the sensitive structures in the inner ear leading to tinnitus and/or hearing loss. This can affect either one or both ears – and age is no barrier – in case you thought it was only the elderly that suffer!

The heavy metal band Manowar in fact claims the title of the loudest band in the world at a recorded 129.5, however the English band leftfield recorded 137dB while playing at Brixton academy in 1996. It should be noted that according to this article by Creighton University, anything over 110dB for a prolonged period of over 1 minute risks permanent hearing damage.

With my own background in the building trade, I know from personal experience that certain tools or pieces of equipment can leave you with ringing ears, long after the tools in question have turned silent. I have often suffered ringing ears long into the night after a day involving chainsaws, disc-cutters, circular saws or even electric drills. Actually I personally find that if I am using an electric drill close to my ear – for instance drilling plugs into a masonary wall for shelving (something I do on a regular basis) – then my ears will be whining most of the night unless I use ear protectors.

Of course not all noise is ‘bad’ noise. White noise for instance is often used to mask the ringing in the ears, in order for the brain to ignore it altogether. This is similar in some ways to tinnitus retraining programs.

With that in mind – just what are the noisiest workplaces where tinnitus could be a real concern? Here is my top ten …

Top 10 Noisiest Workplaces:

No 1 – Military:

Tinnitus is now the number 1 ailment for veterans returning from the war zone. With explosions and heavy gunfire regularly going over 180 dB this has to be potentially the loudest occupation on the plantet! Even a small hand gun produces over 140 dB, whilst a large bore rifle can produce over 175 dB. However for the infantryman outside a tank when it fires, they are exposed to over 190 decibels! Inside the tank the operator is at least protected by his headgear, and the fact that the real noise comes out of the end of the gun barrel with the gases.

No 2 – Formula 1 Operators:

You will notice here that I did not say just drivers? This is because the support team are even more exposed than the driver as they tune up and generally see to the maintenance of the vehicle. Reving up the car for testing is an integral part of tuning a car, and a super-car like a formula 1 can reach 140 dB.

No 3 – Forestry and Construction:

Forestry workers are regularly exposed to the prolonged high-pitched whine of the chain saw, and often for extended periods as a large tree takes a few minutes to cut down. This prolonged exposure to loud noise at over 110 dB (although not the noisiest) means that they are very vulnerable to tinnitus symptoms. Along with the other heavy construction equipment such as a hammer drill at  120 dB, it means that noise exposure is a real concern for forestry and construction workers.

No 4 – Airport Ground Staff:

The roaring noise of a jet engine can reach over 140 dB. This means that potentially the ground staff are exposed to very damaging levels of noise. Without adequate ear protection this would have disasterous results on their hearing. Wearing ear mufflers or plugs is absolutely essential in this noisy occupation.

chainsaw noise causes tinnitus

The constant high-pitched buzzing of the chainsaw can cause serious tinnitus problems if used without ear protection.

No 5 – Night club DJ :

Regularly exposed to noises levels exceeding 120 decibels. The DJ or night club worker is at high risk from tinnitus. This could also apply to anyone employed in the music industry or even cinema – where noise levels can regularly reach over 90 decibels. Special ear phones or mufflers that will not damage the hearing are an essential item if noise induced tinnitus is to be avoided.

No 6 – Agriculture or Farming:

farm workers in a modern mechanised farm are regularly exposed to heavy, noisy farm equipment. From combine harvesters to threshers, with a decibel range up to 120 dB, they all hold the potential to create tinnitus issues. The fact that many farm workers have been exposed to this noise from childhood, means that they are even more vulnerable.

No 7 – Classical Musician:

With noise levels regularly exceeding 95 dB, classical musicians are vulnerable to tinnitus – especially since they can be exposed to this noise for several minutes or even hours. Consider the many hours preparing for concerts or just practice time, and you have a very vulnerable group of people.

No 8 – Motorcycle Courier:

Riding a high-reving motorcycle especially, can expose the rider to over 90 decibels on some bikes – even through the helmet padding!

No 9 – Nursery or School Teachers:

Maybe a bit surprising at first glance – then just think of a classroom full of screeming kids! According to this article, classrooms regulary exceed 85 decibels in some places. My wife is a school teacher and I can personally endorse this claim!

tinnitus and loud music

Playing loud music through headphones can have long-term effects regarding tinnitus

No 10 – Office Commuters:

Maybe not a job strictly speaking, however listening to loud music over headphones on the way to work is an often underestimated hazard for tinnitus. Noise levels can easily exceed 85 dB – and it is usually prolonged.

So there you are – my top ten jobs/hazards when it comes to noise pollution. Thankfully in most of these cases – if not all – the answer is simple….Use ear protectors! Whether in the form of ear-phone type protectors or simple ear plugs, anything is better than nothing at all. Your future hearing capability could be at stake.

If that advice is just to late, then perhaps try a lifestyle change – or even retrain your brain! Yes, these are just some of the holistic alternatives on offer today.

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