The damage to your ears from a short time exposed to loud noise might not last – your hearing might return after a few hours away from that noise. But if you keep spending time exposed to loud noise, your ears don’t recover, and the damage lasts for life.
If you have to shout to be heard by someone one metre away, the noise is too loud, and your hearing may be at risk.
Whether you’re at home, or out and about, it’s important to protect your hearing. There are a few easy steps you can take.
- Keep the volume down – remember that devices like phones, speakers and car stereos can damage your hearing if turned up too loud. Loud music while wearing headphones can also be detrimental.
- Avoid using noisy equipment and spending time in noisy environments where practical.
- If using noisy equipment or in noisy environments, always wear protective equipment such as earmuffs or earplugs.
- Limit exposure to excessively loud noises. Even a short amount of time in these environments can damage your hearing.
Noise in a workplace is controlled under health and safety legislation, and WorkSafe is the primary regulator.
General noise in the environment, like road-traffic noise, does not usually cause hearing damage. However, these noises can disrupt sleep, and people living near busy roads or by other noisy activities can be at increased risk of various health effects such as cardiovascular disease.
Environmental noise is controlled under the Resource Management Act and local councils are the primary regulator. If you’re worried about environmental noise, including specific issues like noisy parties or other neighbourhood noise, contact your local council.
Reducing environmental noise inside the home
- Use sleeping spaces on a quiet side of the building if possible.
- Fit mechanical ventilation and air-conditioning so windows can be kept closed (windows left open or ajar for natural ventilation/cooling are a weakness that allows noise into houses).
- If mechanical ventilation is fitted, also upgrade window glazing to reduce noise passing through the glass.
For further information regarding acoustic treatment of buildings please refer to the Waka Kotahi guide.
- Noise around the home - Information on how noise at high decibels affects hearing, potentially causing hearing damage by destroying cells in the ear.
- National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing - A charity supporting New Zealanders with hearing loss.
- WorkSafe - Resources on noise management and avoiding hearing loss at work.
- ACC - Injury prevention information for New Zealanders.
- World Health Organization (regional office for Europe) - International guidance on effects and management of environmental noise.
- Ministry for the Environment - A series of booklets to help you with everyday matters under the Resource Management Act.
- Consumer NZ - A summary of issues and regulation relating to common neighbourhood noise problems.
- Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency - Information about road-traffic noise in New Zealand.