We live in a noisy world, where the sound levels to which we are exposed regularly strains our hearing. Even seamlessly harmless sounds, such as the squeaking and jingling of childrenâ€™s toys or the sound of a lawnmower, can cause hearing loss.
Regular exposure to sounds at or over 85 db SPL do irreversible damage but the good news is that we can protect our hearing and take simple steps to prevent possible damage or further damage.
What causes hearing loss?
The ear has three main parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear (the part you can see) opens into the ear canal. The eardrum separates the ear canal from the middle ear. Small bones in the middle ear help transfer sound vibrations to the inner ear. Here, the vibrations become nerve impulses, which the brain interprets as music, a slamming door, a voice, and so on.
When noise is too loud, it begins to kill the nerve endings in the inner ear. Prolonged exposure to loud noise destroys nerve endings. As the number of nerve endings decreases, so does your hearing. There is no way to restore life to dead nerve endings; the damage is permanent. The longer you are exposed to a loud noise, the more damaging it may be. Also, the closer you are to the source of intense noise, the more damaging it is.
Can noise affect more than my hearing?
A ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, commonly occurs after noise exposure, and often becomes permanent. Some people react to loud noise with anxiety and irritability, an increase in pulse rate and blood pressure, or an increase in stomach acid. Very loud noise can reduce efficiency in performing difficult tasks by diverting attention from the job.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Prevention is the best medicine
Through sensible preventive measures, many potential causes of hearing loss can be eliminated. Take care of your ears now, protect them from loud sounds and check your hearing regularly. That way, you will help keep your hearing in peak condition or at least have a chance to do something to protect your hearing from further damage. Remember: One-third of hearing loss is preventable with proper hearing protection. For many people today, MP3 players represent a new but serious threat to your long-term hearing, if over-used or used persistently at high volume.
Don’t listen to loud music
Stay away from noisy engines and machinery. Limit your use of headphones, and keep the volume turned down when you use them! Also remember not to use any head phones nor ear phones, they all contribute towards injuring your hearing.
Be careful in the car
Listening to music in a confined space increases the risk of hearing damage. Donâ€™t listen to music too loud for too long.
Turn down the dial
Turn down the volume on your TV, radio or hi-fi a notch. Even a small reduction in volume can make a big difference to the risk of damage to your hearing. If you need to raise your voice to be heard above the sound, turn it down.
Remember this: the noise of a gun firing is much louder than it seems on television. If you regularly take part in sports or activities that are noisy such as shooting or motor sports remember to wear ear protection.
Wear hearing protection when doing potentially hearing-damaging activities
These include mowing the lawn, working in a wood shop, and more.
Foam earplugs are available at any drugstore. You squeeze the plug to compress it, then stick it in your ear. It will expand to fill your ear canal, muffling some sound. You will still be able to hear what’s going on, just not as clearly. Earplugs only lower noise about 29 decibels. This is not enough to make you completely immune to really loud sounds.
Be very careful if you stick cotton buds into your ears to clean them. Don’t put them in too far.