Our ears are full of very sensitive cells that allow us to hear. Exposure to noise harms these cells. Damage can be caused by a single, very loud noise such as an explosion (which can make you deaf immediately), or by longer exposure to loud noise such as machinery or loud music at work. The effects of this damage include hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears). Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is permanent and irreversible. It is also 100% preventable.
The first symptoms of NIHL are problems hearing conversation in a noisy room (sometimes called 'cocktail party deafness') and tinnitus. Usually, by the time these symptoms are bad enough for you to visit your doctor about them, the damage cannot be undone and will get worse even without further exposure to noise.
Continued exposure to noise above 90dB is likely to cause NIHL in a proportion of people exposed to it.
In 2011, new audiovisual features were added to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website which enable you to experience for yourself the long-term effects of noise-induced hearing loss.
For more help, see workSMART's Noise and Hearing section.