Risk of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Due to Recreational Sound: Review and Recommendations

J Acoust Soc Am. 2019 Nov;146(5):3911. doi: 10.1121/1.5132287.


This review was conducted to address three questions related to recreational sound exposure: (1) what criteria are used to determine noise exposure limits, (2) are there differences in the risk of hearing loss from occupational noise versus recreational sound, and (3) what is an appropriate exposure limit for recreational sound? For the first question, most standards specify an 8-h occupational noise exposure limit (LEX) of 85 dBA. This limit assumes that some workers exposed at the limit will develop hearing loss. To eliminate the risk of hearing loss, a 24-h equivalent continuous level (LEQ24h) limit of 70 dBA is appropriate. For the second question, there is some evidence that the effects of occupational noise on hearing may be worse than energetically equivalent recreational sound. Limits developed for noise are nevertheless applicable to recreational sound, and use of existing statistical models to predict hearing loss from recreational sound is appropriate, with the caveat that these models are limited to durations ≤40 years. For the third question, a recreational sound limit of 80 dBA LEX, equivalent to a 75 dBA LEQ24h, will virtually eliminate the risk of recreationally induced hearing loss in adults. Lower limits may be warranted for vulnerable or susceptible individuals.