Can too much noise harm your ears?

CLEVELAND CLINIC - As the summer concert season heats up, many folks are planning their trips to see their favorite band or musician.

According to Cleveland Clinic Dr. Sharon Sandridge, you may want to pack some ear plugs before heading out to see your favorite act. She says that if you think a little too much noise can't hurt you, think again.

"One time, that's all it takes," she said. "So if you go to a concert, and you say, 'I'm going to just tough it out,' and you walk out and your ears are ringing and everything is dull, you've done permanent damage at that point."

Even though you may not notice it right away, Dr. Sandridge says that exposure to loud noise can age your ability to hear twice as quickly as it should.

For instance, a 20-year-old who has had hearing damage will hear as well as a 40-year-old, and a 40-year-old with hearing damage will only hear as well as an 80-year-old. And the more often that you listen to sounds that are too loud, the more damage your ears will accumulate.

Musicians are at a high risk for hearing damage and hearing loss, because they're playing loud music for several hours a day. It's not just rock musicians who are at risk. People who play orchestral music are also at risk for hearing damage.

Dr. Sandridge recommends wearing foamy ear plugs to your favorite show. They will mute the noise to a safe level, while still allowing you to hear everything you want to hear.

She says it's important to be aware of the amount of loud noise that you subject your ears to, because losing your ability to hear can have life altering effects.

"We hear, but what we really use our ears for is to understand, communication," Dr. Sandridge said. "So there's a difference between just being aware of sounds, and actually understanding what is being said."

Dr. Sandridge reminds us that once your ear is damaged, the damage cannot be undone, only amplified through the aid of a hearing device.