Every day our ears are exposed to all sorts of sounds and volume levels, but how much is too much?
Human ears can usually handle sounds under 75dB for any period of time but, once we surpass that volume level it can be damaging.
Exactly how much damage is done depends on the volume level of the noise and the length of exposure. If you are exposed to anything over 85dB for too long you’ll begin to experience noise-induced hearing loss.
The louder the sound is the shorter the time it takes to cause damage.
How does hearing work?
When sound enters the ear, it proceeds down the canal where it meets the ear-drum. Vibrations on the ear-drum from the sound are then passed onto the malleus, incus, and stapes – three tiny bones in the ear. These bones couple the air vibrations into fluidic vibrations in the cochlea.
Inside the cochlea is where the magic happens. The fluidic vibrations are interpreted by tiny ‘hair’ cells above the basilar membrane in the inner ear. These hairs turn external vibrations into comprehendible electrical signals which are the source of your hearing ability.
How do loud noises cause hearing damage?
Loud noises damage the stereocilia ‘hair’ cells within the ear and unfortunately, unlike birds and reptiles, humans are unable to regenerate these cells. This means that any that are destroyed or lost to loud noise, are irreparably damaged which of course means a hearing loss.
Different sections of stereocilia are responsible for different frequencies (rates of vibration) and sections which handle high-frequency sounds are most prone to damage. This is why we naturally tend to lose our high-frequency range as we get older.
How does it affect me?
Hearing loss is very self-explanatory. If you expose yourself to harmful levels of noise, you’ll damage your hearing and thus will not be able to hear sounds as well as you did. The problem with noise-induced hearing loss is that it is a gradual process and people often do not even realise they have a loss. For this reason, it’s very important to get your hearing checked if you have any concerns. Early detection is key in preventing further loss.
What can I do about hearing loss?
Prevention is always better than a cure, and this same logic applies to hearing loss. To maintain good hearing health, it’s important that you protect your ears when necessary from any uncomfortably loud noises. Ear protection is worth investing in, as you only get one pair of ears!
You wouldn’t weld metal without wearing a specialised welding mask to protect your eyes, so why would you listen to loud music without wearing specialised hearing protection?
Here are a few ways to counter noise-induced hearing loss:
- Physically distancing yourself from the source of the loud noise.
- If you use ear/headphones, avoid going above 60% device volume.
- Wear hearing protection when in noisy environments.
At Hearing Healthcare Centre we offer a wide range of hearing protection for almost any application. Our custom moulds are made in house by our specialist audiologists, perfectly catered to suit your exact needs.