Exposure to high intensity sound can damage the cochlea (inner ear), and lead to permanent hearing loss. The sound may be obnoxious ongoing noise in an industrial setting (e.g., from machines in a factory or power tools) or a military setting (aircraft carrier), a very brief high impact noise in a work environment (e.g., a press) or during military or recreational activity (e.g., a rifle firing), or pleasant but still dangerously high levels of music. Fortunately, we now can detect sound-related cochlear dysfunction at a very early stage, even before the appearance of permanent sensory hearing loss. In addition, sound induced hearing loss can be prevented with traditional hearing protection devices (e.g., earplugs) as well as substances that minimize the toxic metabolic changes in the inner ear (e.g., micro-nutrients and vitamins).
You can click on the topics below to read about some of my research on sound induced hearing loss, including the risk to hearing associated with riding motorcycles (it's mostly from wind noise), the vuvuzela horn that became famous (infamous) at the 2010 World Cup games, and music. At the University of Florida we are now formally investigating auditory function and personal audio-player use (e.g., iPods and other MP3 players) in college students. You'll find references to this work with a Google or PubMed (www.nlm.nih.gov) search.