Forgive my language. When I first read Dr. J.J. Eggermont’s book Noise and the Brain, my first thought was, “Oh, shit.” Because noise is far worse for our hearing and brain health than I was ever taught as an audiologist. Especially for developing hearing systems in children and teens.

My more professional book review, This is Your Brain on Noise, was published in the Winter 2022 issue of Tinnitus Today. Eggermont’s book covers a wide body of scientific evidence showing that noise risks extend far beyond inner-ear related hearing loss.

Noise exposures low enough not to cause hearing loss on a standard audiogram can still cause tinnitus, hyperacusis or decreased sound tolerance, and problems understanding speech. This includes permanent maladaptive central auditory processing disorders in children and teens from exposures that might not impact mature adult hearing systems.

It’s important to remember that sound input connects with multiple parts of the brain. This includes processing areas responsible for cognition, speech, language, music, sound localization, attention, and memory. A recent study, ethically using an animal model, found sound input even stimulates the brain’s visual cortex.

Public health authorities suggest so-called “safe” listening limits of 75 dB average or higher, based only on hearing loss at a few frequencies tested by standard threshold audiometry. Noise-induced tinnitus and hyperacusis are not considered. Neither are characteristic inner ear damage, extended high frequency hearing loss, and speech communication breakdowns identified with more sensitive hearing health tests. Current public health guidelines ignore the total hearing health damage possible from your brain on noise.