After many years of employment in the railroad injury, you may have noticed a loss of hearing in one or both ears. A doctor may have informed you that your railroad job caused your hearing loss by exposing you to loud noises. You may wonder how exposure to loud noises can damage your hearing.

Hearing loss due to loud noises can occur due to constant exposure that occurs over a long period of time or due to a single intense “impulse” sound. Your railroad job may have exposed you to both situations, but damage to your hearing from long-term noise may be the more likely cause.

How can loud noises damage hearing?

Loud noise may cause damage to the auditory nerve, which conveys sound signals from your ears to your brain. Damage to the auditory nerve may not be detectable at first but may cause hearing loss later in life, even after the exposure no longer takes place.

The cochlea is a spiral-shaped structure in your inner ear lined with thousands of hair cells. Sound waves cause the hairs to vibrate, and the vibration produces an electrical signal that the auditory nerve sends to the brain, which interprets it as sound. Loud noise can damage the hair cells. Hair cells do not grow back, so prolonged exposure can cause permanent damage.

What noise level is dangerous?

Decibels are units of sound measurement. Long-term exposure to noises over 85 decibels can cause you to lose your hearing. The noise of a locomotive engine can range from 80 to 90 decibels, and sounds of the engine room, the air brakes or the horn may exceed 100 decibels.