Tinnitus may occur after exposure to loud noise, such as live music, heavy machinery, or fireworks.

A crowd at a loud concert, a possible cause of tinnitus. Share on Pinterest
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You’ve probably heard about the dangers of listening to loud music or operating heavy machinery due to the risk of hearing loss — but you may not know that loud sounds can also cause your ears to ring.

It may also cause phantom buzzing, clicking, or roaring in one or both ears — a condition called tinnitus.

Though the condition is very common and often resolves on its own, it’s worth learning about its treatment and prevention.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), loud noise exposure can cause tinnitus. The tinnitus may sound like a buzzing, ringing, or other repetitive, phantom noise.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is considered one of the top two causes of tinnitus (after age-related hearing loss).

NIHL can happen after a one-time exposure to intense sounds like an explosion or after a longer period of loud sounds, such as construction work. In a large 2021 study, about 53% of patients with NIHL also reported having tinnitus.

Exposure to sounds over about 115 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss, which may cause tinnitus. Keep in mind that concerts are often over 115 dB, while common construction sounds like forklift and hammer drills can exceed 90 to 120 dB.

This happens because sound vibrations can damage the fine hair cells (stereocilia) in your ear that allow you to perceive noise. Using the same logic, experts think that damage to these cells could also cause tinnitus — though so far, they don’t know exactly how this occurs.

How long does it take for loud music or noise to cause tinnitus?

Experts think that tinnitus, in general, may onset suddenly or take weeks, months, or even years.

According to some older research, 24% of tinnitus patients reported their symptoms onset suddenly, 55% of tinnitus patients reported it onset gradually, and 21% said they weren’t sure.

However, since much of this data is based on self-reports from patients, more research is necessary to know exactly how long it takes for tinnitus to occur.

There’s also a lack of data on tinnitus after loud noise exposure in particular.

Sometimes there can also be temporary hearing loss due to the hairs in the ear becoming bent by loud sounds.

Did you know?

Sometimes, temporary hearing loss can also occur due to the hairs in the ear becoming bent by loud sounds. This is called a threshold shift, and it may temporarily change your sensitivity to softer sounds.

This is why you may find yourself shouting after a loud concert without realizing it.

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According to the NIDCD, loud noise exposure may cause either temporary or permanent tinnitus.

Temporary tinnitus typically resolves within a few days to a few weeks following the loud noise exposure. However, with repeated exposure to loud noise, the tinnitus is more likely to become permanent.

According to experts, the longer tinnitus has persisted, the more likely it is to become permanent. The condition is sometimes considered permanent when it has persisted for at least a year, although there is still a possibility that it may resolve after this time.

Although the condition may resolve on its own, several treatments may help soothe and treat symptoms caused by noise exposure, including:

  • Behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or tinnitus retraining therapy may help reduce symptoms as well as potentially halt them altogether.
  • Hearing aids: They can treat any related hearing loss and may also make tinnitus less apparent or cease symptoms entirely.
  • Sound therapy: Listening to white, brown, or pink noise, having a sound bath, music therapy, or listening to nature sounds may help temporarily soothe tinnitus symptoms.
  • Food and dietary changes: Avoiding or limiting caffeine or alcohol may cause tinnitus symptoms to lessen. There’s also some limited evidence that magnesium supplements may reduce tinnitus symptoms.
  • Prevention steps: Wearing earplugs around loud noises, moving away from loudspeakers, and limiting the time and volume you listen to headphones can prevent further damage.

Tinnitus often links to loud noise exposure from things like concerts or construction work.

While tinnitus may resolve on its own, you can help manage it in the meantime with sound therapy, behavioral therapy, and avoiding substances that may worsen symptoms, like caffeine or alcohol.

Since tinnitus is often linked to hearing loss, visiting a doctor for a hearing test is important.