Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is an important etiology of deafness worldwide. Hearing conservation programs are in place and have reduced the prevalence of NIHL, but this disorder is still far too common. Occupational and recreational pursuits expose people to loud noise and ten million persons in the US have some degree of noise-induced hearing impairment. It is estimated that 50 million in the US and 600 million people worldwide are exposed to noise hazards occupationally. Noise deafness is still an important and frequent cause of battlefield injury in the US military. A mainstay of hearing conservation programs is personal mechanical hearing protection devices which are helpful but have inherent limitations. Research has shown that oxidative stress plays an important role in noise-induced cochlear injury resulting in the discovery that a number of antioxidant and cell death inhibiting compounds can ameliorate deafness associated with acoustic trauma. This article reviews one such compound, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), in terms of its efficacy in reducing hearing loss in a variety of animal models of acute acoustic trauma and hypothesizes what its therapeutic mechanisms of action might be based on the known actions of NAC. Early clinical trials with NAC are mentioned.