Ear damage

Going out and music belong together. But unfortunately you only have one pair of ears, so be careful with them. So you can enjoy music all the longer when you go out or listen to music at home. On this page you can read information that can help you to enjoy music for as long as possible.


  • Every year, more than 21,500 young people in the Netherlands suffer permanent hearing damage as a result of music that is too loud.
  • A ringing in your ear after going out is a sign that your hearing is micro-damaged. Usually that beep is gone the next day, but the beep can also become permanent.
  • Hearing damage is irreparable. Unfortunately, there are no medicines that can make a beep go away. You can protect yourself against hearing damage: always wear hearing protection when you go out.
  • Some people are more susceptible to developing hearing damage than others. If you listen to too loud music too often, too long, the chance of hearing damage increases.
  • You don’t always feel hearing damage coming. It can be done with your hearing all of a sudden without you seeing it coming.
  • For the generation currently dating and exposing themselves to loud music, chances are they will need hearing aids before age 65.
  • A hearing aid amplifies the sound that you cannot or only hear poorly without a hearing aid, but it never restores your full hearing.

How does sound work?

First something about how sound works. The sound volume is expressed in decibels (dBs). Every 3 decibels added means a doubling of the sound volume. So it makes a big difference whether you run at 100 dB(A) or 103 dB(A). A safe standard for noise in your free time is 88 dB(A). That means that if the volume is at 88 decibels, you can safely stay in this with your ears for 8 hours, 5 days a week. At a sound level above 88 dB(A) there is a risk of hearing damage. In addition, the following also applies: the harder you turn, the shorter you can stay in the room with your ears without incurring hearing damage. Every 3 decibels added means a halving of the safe listening time. At 88 decibels you can stay safely for 8 hours, but at 91 decibels only 4 hours, etc.

When the music is loud, high notes can do just as much damage as low notes. High tones can feel more painful.

What is the risk of hearing damage?

Hearing damage from music has everything to do with being too loud, too long and too often. If you regularly listen to loud music for a longer period of time, the risk of hearing damage increases. Not only going out, but also listening to music on your phone at a high volume can damage your hearing. It is difficult to indicate exactly when you will suffer hearing damage, but for your hearing it is a sum of the sound volume, the frequency and the time that you listen to loud music. If you go out often and also listen to music on your phone for many hours every day, your ears endure a lot of noise and they hardly get any rest.

At dance events and in discotheques, noise levels well above 103 dB(A) are no exception. At a sound level above 88 dB(A) there is a risk of hearing damage. There is only one thing you can do for yourself to avoid hearing damage and that is to always wear earplugs when you go out. You can assume that the volume is always above 88 dB(A).

What happens with hearing damage?

Everyone recognizes it: a beep after going out. But what happens in your ear if you are exposed to too loud music too often and for too long? There are many hair cells in each inner ear, beyond the eardrum. When sound enters your ear, the vibration of the sound is converted into an electrical current. That current is passed on to your brain via the hair cells, which translate it as sound. If your ears are exposed to too much loud noise, the hair cells can be damaged or even die. The effect of sound on hair cells can be compared to the effect of wind on a cornfield. The hair cells are then the wheat. When a normal wind blows over the field, the corn bends with it and back again with the wind. A strong storm causes the wheat to lie flat on the field, but it can recover and rise. But if it storms a few times, the wheat breaks and cannot recover.

Damage to the hair cells results in hearing loss, a persistent ringing in your ear or becoming hypersensitive to sound. Hearing damage is irreparable.

What are the consequences of hearing damage?

The most common types of noise-induced hearing loss are:

  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears/beeps)
  • Hyperacusis (hypersensitivity to sound)

Did you know that a beep after going out is already a sign that you have suffered hearing damage on a micro level? A clear signal that your ears need rest and would like to put in earplugs next time!

When you have hearing damage, you can have a lot of problems with it in your daily life. To name a few examples:

  • You understand your friends less well and it is more difficult to follow conversations.
  • Because you have to put in more effort to follow a conversation, you get tired faster.
  • You are less able to concentrate on your studies or work.
  • Music doesn’t sound as nice or your hearing is so bothersome that you don’t go out anymore.

What can you do to limit the consequences?

Hearing damage is permanent. Fortunately, you can do some things yourself to prevent hearing damage.

  • Always wear earplugs to enjoy music for a long time and safely.
  • Make it a habit to always take your earplugs with you when you go out.
  • Avoid exposing your ears to music that is too loud for too long.
  • Do not stand too long and too close to the speakers.
  • Give your ears a rest now and then in a quieter place.
  • Check your hearing once a year.


Earplugs with a built-in music filter ensure that harmful sound is filtered out, but that the timbre is preserved. So you can still enjoy the music and have a conversation. There are universal and custom earplugs with a music filter for sale.

If you go out very often, you can consider having custom hearing protection made. They are comfortable because they fit exactly in your ears. They are a bit more expensive, starting at around € 120. Custom-made earplugs last about 3 years, because your body, and therefore your ears, change. As a result, the earplugs no longer fit properly. So keep an eye on this and have it tested regularly to make sure it is still in place. Otherwise you will not be well protected against loud noise. Universal earplugs with built-in music filter are made of flexible material, so they easily adapt to the shape of your ear. The filter quality of universal earplugs is equal to that of otoplastics and offers sufficient protection for loud music. These earplugs are slightly less comfortable than custom-made earplugs, but the price-quality ratio is good. These earplugs can be used multiple times and are available from € 3,-  Affordable universal hearing protection with a music filter can be purchased via the internet or at a hearing care professional.

Noise-stoppers (of those yellow foams) in most cases provide 6 dB of protection and do not contain a built-in filter. Most people do not get the foam earplug in the ear properly (eg due to an ear canal that is too small), so that you are not well protected against harmful noise. They are also not very comfortable and can irritate. In addition, they distort the music and it is difficult to carry on a conversation with foam earplugs. But, if you have nothing else, try to put them in your ear as best you can.

Fingers, tissues and cigarette filters in the ear do not protect.

Bring earplugs

Once you’ve bought your earplugs, don’t forget to take them with you when you go out. With most earplugs that you buy, you will receive a case, so that you can easily take your earplugs with you.

Put in your earplugs before entering the room and keep them in all the time! By putting them in later or taking them off in between, your ears will still have to deal with a blow.

Unity tips

You can protect your hearing in several ways. The best is a combination of the different ways: always wear earplugs and never stand too close to the speaker (even if you have earplugs!).

Three things are important:

  • Always wear earplugs with a built-in filter when you are in a disco or club or at a festival, event or concert.
  • Dance or stand as far away from the speakers as possible. Stay at least 2 meters away from the speakers at indoor locations, and 10 meters away at outdoor locations.
  • Take regular ‘ear breaks’: go outside for a while, away from the music. Resting your ears is important, but does not provide enough to adequately protect your hearing. So always combine ear breaks with the other two measures.

How can you find out if you have hearing damage?

  • A ringing or ringing in your ears after going out? That is a sign that you have already suffered hearing damage on a micro level. Always take this signal seriously and protect your hearing next time. The beep can also become permanent.
  • Hearing loss is usually gradual. It is often noticed for the first time in a bar or on a birthday. It is difficult to follow a conversation in a noisy environment.
  • You can do a short simple hearing test at: www.oorcheck.nl. The Ear Check gives a global result: good, moderate, bad. You can have a more extensive hearing test done free of charge from a hearing care professional or make an appointment at an audiology center.