The World Health Organization has called environmental noise an “underestimated threat.” In the US, one in four adults in the US show signs of noise-induced hearing loss, and hearing loss (from all causes) is now the third most common chronic health condition in the US, just after diabetes and cancer.
This is frustrating because hearing loss is both irreparable and preventable. If we were more aware of the harms of blasting loud music, we would reduce noise pollution from the source. And if we knew to protect our ears from noise, we would reduce our risk of losing our hearing — the same way we know sunscreen protects us against skin cancer and condoms reduce our risk of STDs.
To better understand the impact of the din most of us now have to contend with, Vox reporter Julia Belluz dived into how noise-induced hearing loss works — and how it damages our health and well-being. Here’s what you need to know.