In a world full of noise—honking vehicles, amplified music, power mowers, and jackhammers—it's important to take steps to protect your hearing. And some of the noises you'll want to protect yourself from might surprise you.

For example, you might expect your ears to ring after a rock concert, but they might do the same after a fireworks display. Just one exposure to a typical pyrotechnics show can permanently damage your hearing.

But short, loud bursts of sound aren’t the only potential problems. Over time, even innocuous-seeming sounds such as the constant hum of a loud window air conditioner unit or refrigerator can cause cumulative damage. Aging, genetics, and working in noisy environments can also hamper your hearing.

And you don’t want to wait until your hearing has suffered to take protective steps—because then, you might need to consider a pricey hearing aid. In Consumer Reports’ February 2016 nationally representative survey of readers with hearing problems, we found that they spent an average of $2,710 out of pocket on devices and audiologist visits, and 16 percent spent $5,000 or more.

Use these four tips for preventing hearing loss.

Prevent Hearing Loss by Knowing Your Risk

Sounds are measured in decibels. While individual tolerances vary, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends workplace exposure should be below 85 decibels throughout an eight-hour workday and legal workplace limits are 90 decibels (for comparison, hand-held hair dryers can emit 77 to 92 decibels of sound). Consumer Reports health and safety experts say that prolonged exposure to 70 decibels—the sound produced by a shower— or below is safe for most people.

Experts agree that sounds exceeding 100 decibels, a level that can easily be surpassed by rock concerts, sporting events, movie theaters, gas lawn mowers and snow blowers, some MP3 players played at maximum volume, and fireworks displays—can be hazardous even in short bursts. Get a chart of places and products that can top 100 decibels here

Block Out Loud Sounds

If you’re stuck in a noisy space you can dampen the sound with earmuffs or earplugs. Foam earplugs are a low-tech, inexpensive way to protect your ears. You can find them at any drugstore for about $3.50 for a set of 10. Earplugs are even sold at many concerts, right alongside the T-shirts. If you're concerned about music quality, head to an audiologist for custom-fitted ear plugs; they're more expensive than the foam kind but will let in a richer sound at a show.

Use Headphones Wisely

One in five teenagers are estimated to have some form of hearing loss, which experts have attributed to the increased use of listening to music via headphones and earbuds. The easiest way to help prevent hearing loss from personal listening devices such as iPhones and MP3 players is to follow the 60/60 rule: listen at no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. Using over-the-ear headphones—especially the noise-canceling kind—instead of earbuds may also help prevent damage. 

Make Sure Your Ears Are Clear

Impacted earwax can block the ear canal and contribute to hearing loss. This is especially common in people who wear hearing aids, where the lack of air ventilation in the ears can cause wax build-up. People who plug or clean their ears with cotton may also inadvertently leave cotton residues behind, clogging things up. Your doctor should be able to clear the way with a probe or a water flush. (And don’t put cotton balls, cotton swabs, or other items in your ears.)