What is noise-induced hearing loss?

…and why should we watch out for it as music fans?

  • Kate Pasola, Content Editor
  • Thu, 22 Feb

We consume more noise than we ever have before.

“Life is loud, right? In the morning when you’re on the commute, spin class, wearing your AirPods at work all day, then going to the bar, the gig, the club,” points out Dr James Schuster-Bruce, an Ear Nose and Throat doctor in South London.

He’s co-founder of Life is Loud, a sonic safety collaborative, and is particularly keen on encouraging music fans to protect their hearing.

But rather than wagging a finger, demanding clubs pull the sound system down to a whisper, mandating 24/7 earplug wearing or scare-mongering about the sonic dangers of techno festivals, Dr James thinks the solution lies in being a little more realistic when it comes to taking care of our hearing.

“Rather than a ‘turn it down’ approach,” he explains, “we want to give you some information to empower you to consume music better, reduce the damage to your ears, and ultimately, stay out longer doing the things you enjoy.”


Planning ahead for music festival season? Head to our round-up of the best European music festivals of 2024


Woman in club

How can I tell if I’ve got noise-induced hearing loss?

According to Dr James, there are three main symptoms to watch out for.

“If you get these after a night out, it’s probably a sign you’ve overdone it.”

1. Tinnitus

“The first one that people notice is usually tinnitus or noise in the ear. This presents often as a high pitched ringing sound, but can also be clicking the kind of gushing or whooshing.”

This can be temporary, but can become more frequent or persistent until it’s there the whole time.

2. Problems in conversations

If you’re finding it difficult to follow conversations, find you’re missing some words because of background noise, or asking others to repeat themselves more often, this could be another sign to take action.

3. Hypersensitivity to sounds

Though tinnitus and muffled hearing are kind of notorious tip-offs that your hearing might be deteriorating, you should also keep an eye out for increased sensitivity to the sounds you're hearing. This is also known as hyperacusis.

“Some sounds might have caused pain or discomfort when you hear them,” explains Dr James, pointing out that it's also worth getting a check-up if it's something you're experiencing.

The good news? Noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable, and there’s a bunch of steps you can take to protect your hearing from worsening - you can find out more in our sonic safety guide.


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