New TLS Health Column – Did You Know? Noise-Induced Hearing Loss | Dr. Daniel Roth, MD, with Lauren Roth

The sound of our loved ones’ voices. Music. Being able to participate in conversations. Hearing connects us with the world around us and allows us to interact with other people.

There is a threat to our hearing called noise-induced hearing loss, and it results in permanent, irreversible hearing loss. Loud wedding music, loud public events, like lectures, or classrooms, or camp events where a microphone is used that’s too loud, or fitness classes where the music is too loud, or having the volume up too high on our cell phones, earbuds, or headphones can all damage our hearing.

It’s a function of how loud the noise is and how long we are exposed to the noise.

Sounds of 80 decibels or less are safe, no matter how long the exposure.  This includes normal conversation volume.

85 decibels is safe for up to a maximum of 8 hours.

The permissible time for safe listening decreases as sound levels increase.

For example, sound at 100 decibels can only be listened to for 15 minutes each day without causing damage to your hearing. Typical frum wedding dancing and chuppah sounds are 100-110 decibels.  Fitness classes with loud music are typically 105-115 decibels.  At 110 decibels, permanent hearing loss is possible in less than 2 minutes.

If you need to raise your voice to be heard at an arm’s length, the noise level in the environment is likely above 85 decibels and could damage your hearing.

Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent. Once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back. Hearing damage due to excessive noise cannot be reversed. But noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.

Children’s and babies’ ears can also be damaged from loud noise, so their exposure to anything above normal conversation volume should be curtailed.  We have a responsibility to protect those who are not old enough to protect themselves.

How can I prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

Reduce your exposure to loud noise.  If you are the baal hasimcha, tell the band to keep the decibel level to 85 decibels.

Wear earplugs at weddings during the dancing, and, especially, put earplugs on your children who are exposed to the loud noise.  Disposable foam or silicone earplugs cost about $1 a pair and are available in any drugstore.  These earplugs, which can quiet up to 25 decibels of sound, can mean the difference between a dangerous and a safe level of noise.  Or stay outside in the lobby.

Do not bring babies of any age into a simcha hall when the music is playing loudly; they did not agree to having their hearing damaged.

Make sure your children’s toys are not too loud.

Don’t try to drown out loud noise with even louder noise.  For example, don’t shout to be heard above loud wedding music, don’t turn up the volume on music in your car when you’re on the highway to hear it over the sound of your car, and don’t turn up the volume on your home stereo or earbuds to drown out the noise of a vacuum cleaner.  Adding more decibels will only harm your ears more.

Ask your children’s schools and camps to use a decibel meter to measure the noise in classrooms and spaces where they are using microphones. Under 85 decibels for up to 8 hours a day is safe.

You can purchase a decibel meter on Amazon, at RadioShack, (for about $20), or if you have a smartphone, decibel meters are available as an free app on your phone.

If someone can hear your cell phone conversation or your car radio playing when they are outside your car when your doors and windows are closed, you probably have the volume too loud.

When you are using a blender or a Vitamix, make sure to use headphones that muffle the noise to protect your ears. Available on Amazon for $16.

Headphones that muffle sound protect your hearing even more than earplugs do, because the headphones also cover the bone behind the ear, which sound is transducted across, as well.

Permanent noise-induced hearing loss begins with not hearing high-pitched sounds, like the singing of birds, or not understanding the speech of women and small children. If more damage occurs, hearing declines further, and lower-pitched sounds, including men’s voices, become hard to understand.

Many of my older patients have hearing loss and are unable to engage in real conversation or comprehend any detailed discussion, alienating them from life’s social interactions.  But we also have friends in their 40’s who have already begun to feel the effects of cumulative hearing loss, which is a shame, because noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.

Hearing is a gift. Protect it.

If you would like to sign the following letter (below) asking bands to keep the noise level to 85 decibels, please sign with this link:

Then bring the signed letter to the next simcha you attend.
Let’s start a “Turn It Down for Hearing”movement!

Dear Band,

We are your consumers, and we respectfully ask that you please measure your sound output in this space and keep the decibel levels no higher than 85 decibels, which is the maximum safe sound level for 8 hours’ worth of listening.

We want to be able to hear well into our 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond, and our hearing ability is up to you!

Thank you.

Sources: World Health Organization, Department for Management of Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, Centers for Disease Control, The National Institute of Health; The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, The American Academy of Family Physicians, Harvard Medical School Special Health Report.

Everyday Sounds and Noises Average Sound Level (measured in decibels) Typical Response (after routine or repeated exposure)
Softest sound that can be heard 0  

Sounds at these dB levels typically don’t cause any hearing damage.

Normal breathing 10
Ticking watch 20
Soft whisper 30
Refrigerator hum 40
Normal conversation, air conditioner 60
Washing machine, dishwasher 70 You may feel annoyed by the noise
City traffic (inside the car) 80–85 You may feel very annoyed
Gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers 80-85 Damage to hearing possible after 2 hours of exposure
Motorcycle 95 Damage to hearing possible after about 50 minutes of exposure
Approaching subway train, car horn at 16 feet (5 meters), and sporting events (such as hockey playoffs and football games) 100 Hearing loss possible after 15 minutes
The maximum volume level for personal listening devices; a very loud radio, stereo, or television; and loud entertainment venues (such as nightclubs, bars, and rock concerts) 105–110 Hearing loss possible in less than 5 minutes
Shouting or barking in the ear 110 Hearing loss possible in less than 2 minutes
Standing beside or near sirens 120 Pain and ear injury
Firecrackers 140–150 Pain and ear injury


Source: Centers for Disease Control, The National Institute of Health

For more information:



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  1. Buy and wear “Downbeats.” They are high fidelity, well fitting ear plugs. They cost $15 and come in a carrying case. Well worth protecting your own ears, while we wait for the bands to comply and lower the decibels.

  2. I personally lost a lot of my hearing at a very young age due to the fact that I was a one-man-band. I can’t express the amount of agmas nefesh I’ve been through because of this. PLEASE protect yourselves.

  3. TY Dr. Roth.
    The problem is that most people simply just don’t know this information. They don’t realize how real and important this is. Whoever can forward this and print it out to show people, is doing a great mitzvah.

  4. There are gemachim for headphone style earmuffs for children – look in gemach section of phone book.
    I don’t know if they’re the proper size for little babies, and, for unborn children, loud sound can damage their hearing, as they have very little protection, and children, and how much more so babies, are more vulnerable, and, as the doctor said, they have not given their consent (as if anyone has!).

  5. I think silicone putty earplugs are the most comfortable.
    I think big events should be outdoors. Like this the noise level is automatically much lower since the noise is not trapped in the room. And the big halls cost a fortune anyways. And Chupahs are supposed to be outdoors anyways. These might even be some of the reasons for the minhag of outdoor Chupahs.

  6. I think the petition should also be addressed to the ba’alei simcha and owners of the halls, not just the band. During a Simcha, IF you are approaching anybody, I think the ba’alei simcha should be approached first. If they don’t want to go themselves to the band, and they don’t even want you to go as their shliach, but they don’t mind you going on your own, then you can go to the band. If they mind you going to the band, it might still be the right thing to go to the band, but I doubt anyone would do that.
    This article and petition was obviously written by a Doctor. I understand that some physical discomfort is nothing when compared to irreversible hearing loss. But since there are people that don’t understand at all what’s wrong with loud noise, I think it’s worth mentioning that many people find it painful.

    • Good points.
      So you go to band: they say ‘we’re just working for customer – it’s their decision.
      You go to baal simcha, they say ‘we don’t want to be different, and we can’t think about it now.’
      You go to rabbanim, they agree; speak up about it!
      It’s everyone’s responsibility! And whoever speaks up is doing a mitzvah.
      Explain to people all the points. Yes, many people just don’t know.

    • There are many meters. But like he said, there is a much easier way to measure; if you have to raise your voice when speaking to someone at arm’s length, it’s too loud, and if you shout and he still doesn’t hear you, it’s dangerously loud. And often, even if you shout into the person’s ear (which makes it even more dangerous), he still can’t hear.
      The situation is a big Chillul Hashem, and severe immaturity on the part of anyone who can make a difference.
      But bands are afraid they will lose business if lower sound. It’s bad new. A Psak must be given. And the truth is, it already has been from numerous rabbanim around the world.

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