How loudness can impact your hearing

December 31, 2009 3:27:19 PM PST
Constant loudness in the ear can over time produce a debilitating hearing condition. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich didn't realize he was abusing his ears until it was too late.

"It's sort of a constant ringing in your ears basically," Ulrich said.

He's been playing the drums for 30 years and now suffers from tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

"It never sort of goes away, it never just stops," he said.

Exposure to loud noises is the most common known cause and you don't have to be a rock and roller. Any loud noise, from loud machinery to the roar of a motor speedway, can cause it.

How do you know when something is too loud?

"If you are in an environment where you're about three feet away from an individual and you have to literally raise your voice for that person to hear you, that is already becoming a very loud environment," Dr. Norma Mraz said.

Mraz, an audiologist, says ear plugs and ear molds, like Ulrich now wears, can help.

"I never sit down behind a drum kit without protection. I mean even if it's just down in the basement or on my kid's drum kits," Ulrich said.

He hopes others will start sooner than he did and protect their ears now, whether at work or at play.