Dispelling Myths to Make Healthy Hearing a Reality

Posted on by Thais C. Morata, PhD; Christa L. Themann, MA, CCC-A; Asha Brogan, MS

This World Hearing Day, March 3, 2024, the World Health Organization is promoting awareness of hearing loss to reduce societal misperceptions and stigma and is encouraging you to do the same. Over 80% of ear and hearing care needs are not met worldwide.[1] Hearing care has an annual cost of nearly $1 trillion (US) globally.[2] Changing mindsets on ear and hearing care is the first step to combatting this largely preventable global health issue.

This blog tackles myths on work-related hearing risks and their consequences. By addressing these myths and raising awareness of occupational hearing loss, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a long-time partner in World Hearing Day efforts (see related blog), hopes to help reduce the burden of hearing loss for workers in the future.

Myth: Loud or hazardous noise causes hearing loss but won’t affect the rest of my health.

Fact: Overexposure to noise can lead to tinnitus, a ringing in the ear that can be annoying (or worse). Exposure to hazardous noise is also associated with cardiovascular disease, poor mental health, injury risk, and other various health conditions. [3] [4] If you need to raise your voice to talk with someone nearby, the noise could be hazardous. Measure noise levels with the NIOSH Sound Level Meter app.


Myth: Noise is the only workplace hazard that can cause hearing loss.

Fact: Some common chemicals called ototoxicants (e.g., solvents, metals) can cause hearing loss on their own and can worsen hearing loss risk when combined with hazardous noise. Pay attention to signs warning you about ototoxicants and take the recommended precautions to control your exposures to both noise and chemicals, both at work and away from work. [5] See an audiologist if you develop early signs of a hearing problem such as difficulty understanding speech, especially in the presence of background noise.


Myth: Hearing loss, tinnitus, and other damage caused by noise and ototoxicants are just part of the job, I can’t do anything about it.

Fact:  Hearing problems can almost always be prevented by reducing noise and chemical exposures on and off the job. Controlling exposures through engineering controls and consistent use of personal protective equipment such as hearing protection, respirators, and gloves can help.[6] Use the NIOSH Preventing Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss guide to learn how.


Myth: I cannot hear well but there is nothing to be done, I am getting used to it.

Fact: If you seek help from a medical professional such as an audiologist for your hearing problems you can prevent other negative consequences like isolation and cognitive decline. [7] [8] You also may get guidance to help you prevent further changes to your hearing.


Myth: Exposure to loud sounds is only a risk to hearing among workers in the manufacturing industry.

Fact: Noise exposure risks exist in just about every industry. Exposures to loud noise in a wide variety of industries (services, agriculture, health care, etc.) have been associated with hearing loss. Find statistics by industry on the NIOSH occupational hearing loss surveillance page. Those who perform or work consistently around loud music (audio engineers, DJs, workers from concert venues, etc.) are also at risk for hearing disorders.[9]


Myth: Noise control is complicated and expensive.

Fact: Noise control is preferable to hearing protection and can be cost effective.[10] [11] Sometimes simple and inexpensive changes can result in substantially lower noise levels, requiring less resources than a hearing loss prevention program. View examples of innovative and cost-effective solutions.


Myth: Sound level meters and noise dosimeters can measure impulsive noise accurately.

Fact: Impulsive noise is caused by a very rapid change in sound pressure over a very short period of time, creating noise “peaks.”  This kind of noise results from a rapid release of compressed gases or objects striking each other. Impulsive noise is more hazardous to hearing than continuous noise. In order to understand the risk of impulsive noise, specialized equipment is necessary to accurately characterize impulse noise exposure.


Healthy hearing should be a reality – not a myth. It can be achieved, and it is worth the effort. Look for simple noise control opportunities that could reduce noise by even a few decibels (dB). Take special care in assessing the risk of workers exposed to impulsive or excessive noise. Consider potential chemical exposures that could be causing or exacerbating hearing loss risk. For more information see the NIOSH website Preventing Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.


Thais C. Morata, PhD, is a Co-Manager of the NIOSH Hearing Loss Prevention Program and a Research Audiologist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering. 

Christa L. Themann, MA, CCC-A, is a Research Audiologist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering. 

Asha Brogan, MS, is a Health Communication Fellow in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies & Engineering. 


[1] Chadha S, Kamenov K, Cieza A. The world report on hearing, 2021. Bull World Health Organ. 2021 Apr 1;99(4):242-242A. doi: 10.2471/BLT.21.285643. PMID: 33953438; PMCID: PMC8085630.

[2] WHO 2021.World Report on Hearing. March 3 2021. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240020481

[3] Yang L, Gutierrez DE, Guthrie OW. Systemic health effects of noise exposure. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2024 Jan 2;27(1):21-54. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2023.2280837. Epub 2023 Nov 28. PMID: 37957800.

[4]  Kerns E, Masterson EA, Themann CL, Calvert GM. Cardiovascular conditions, hearing difficulty, and occupational noise exposure within US industries and occupations. Am J Ind Med. 2018 Jun;61(6):477-491. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22833. Epub 2018 Mar 14. PMID: 29537072; PMCID: PMC6897488.

[5] Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical (Ototoxicity) and Noise Exposure https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2018-124/default.html

[6] Tikka C, Verbeek JH, Kateman E, Morata TC, Dreschler WA, Ferrite S. Interventions to prevent occupational noise-induced hearing loss. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jul 7;7(7):CD006396. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006396.pub4. PMID: 28685503; PMCID: PMC6353150.

[7] Moradi S, Engdahl B, Johannessen A, Selbæk G, Aarhus L, Haanes GG. Hearing loss, hearing aid use, and performance on the Montreal cognitive assessment (MoCA): findings from the HUNT study in Norway. Front Neurosci. 2024 Jan 8;17:1327759. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1327759. PMID: 38260012; PMCID: PMC10800991.

[8] Lin FR, Pike JR, Albert MS, Arnold M, Burgard S, Chisolm T, Couper D, Deal JA, Goman AM, Glynn NW, Gmelin T, Gravens-Mueller L, Hayden KM, Huang AR, Knopman D, Mitchell CM, Mosley T, Pankow JS, Reed NS, Sanchez V, Schrack JA, Windham BG, Coresh J; ACHIEVE Collaborative Research Group. Hearing intervention versus health education control to reduce cognitive decline in older adults with hearing loss in the USA (ACHIEVE): a multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2023 Sep 2;402(10404):786-797. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(23)01406-X. Epub 2023 Jul 18. PMID: 37478886; PMCID: PMC10529382.

[9] NIOSH 2015 Workplace Solutions: Reducing the Risk of Hearing Disorders among Musicians. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease  Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational safety and health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2015-184 https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/wp-solutions/2015-184/pdfs/2015-184.pdf

[10]NIOSH 2015. Workplace Design Solutions: Preventing Noise and Hearing Loss during Project Design and Operation. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational safety and health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2016-101. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2016-101/pdfs/2016-101.pdf

[11] Morata TC, Meinke D. Uncovering effective strategies for hearing loss prevention. Acoust Aust. 2016 Apr;44(1):67-75. doi: 10.1007/s40857-016-0044-9. Epub 2016 Mar 9. PMID: 27397968; PMCID: PMC4930158.

Posted on by Thais C. Morata, PhD; Christa L. Themann, MA, CCC-A; Asha Brogan, MS

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Page last reviewed: February 29, 2024
Page last updated: February 29, 2024