Don’t Forget The Earplugs

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski

MADISON, Wis. – If it has a gasoline engine, it can damage your hearing and you should wear hearing protection.

That’s the advice of Ted Tweed, senior audiologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Tweed backed up the advice with one of the largest multi-generational studies of hearing loss of more than 5,000 adults born between 1902 and 1962.


“Sounds louder than 80 decibels can cause hearing loss by damaging the hair cells in the inner ear,” Tweed says. These are the cells that signal the auditory nerve to send electrical impulses to the brain, which the brain interprets as sound.

Lawnmowers and shop tools create noise in the 90-decibel range, while snowmobiles and chainsaws create about 100 decibels and the loudest jet skis have been measured at 115 decibels.

It is not just the loudness, but the duration of the loudness, that matters, Tweed says. For example, a 90-decibel sound can cause damage after eight hours, while exposure to a 100-decibel sound can be tolerated for only two hours.

“Everything comes down to time and intensity,” he says.

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