Latest posts by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)
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You might not realize it, but the sounds you hear day in and day out could be affecting your hearing health far more than you think. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) affects millions of Americans, but many don’t recognize the danger until their hearing has been damaged.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
For anyone living in a big city, noise induced hearing loss is a major health concern. In fact, hearing loss is ranked among the top 5 chronic health conditions in the US, and around 40 million Americans are struggling to hear.
Noise induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to very loud sounds that damage the delicate cells in the inner ear. Sound waves travel down the ear canal, and hit the tympanic membrane, or middle ear. This causes a vibration in the fluid filled middle ear, and the hair cells that line the inner ear sense this vibration. They convert the sound waves into electrical signals and send these messages to the brain where you interpret them as sound. NIHL damages or destroys these inner ear cells, and once the cells are damaged, your brain stops receiving signals from them, and won’t be getting a clear picture of all the sounds happening around you.
Putting a Strain on Hearing
Living in a crowded city takes a toll on your hearing health, and everything from your daily commute, the busy office, your children’s school, and even your own appliances will add up to a lot of noise that can damage your hearing. Sounds that can hurt your ears include your lawnmower or leaf blower, as well as your blender or food processor. Traffic noise can often be extremely loud, and the construction site you pass every day fills your car with dangerous noise levels. Even the garbage truck that drives through your neighborhood once a week adds to the noise pollution, and the strain on your ears.
One sound people don’t usually think about is their personal listening devices. Whether you’re playing your favorite song or listening to a podcast, we often turn up the volume on our devices to drown out any distracting background noise. The maximum volume on most personal listening devices far exceeds safe listening levels, and when you listen with earbuds in your ears, these extremely loud sounds are blasted right into your ears and will damage your hearing.
Wondering how loud is too loud? If you have to yell to be heard by the person next to you, then it’s too loud, and you are damaging your hearing.
The Loudest Sound in the World
The loudest sounds in the world aren’t things you’ll hear very often, but among the top ten loudest sounds in the world are rock concerts, fireworks, and the sound of firearms discharged at close range. Be sure to protect your hearing during these noisy leisure activities.
The loudest man-made sounds on the planet include race cars and space shuttle launches. In nature, the Blue Whale emits a call that tops the charts when it comes to volume, and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are devastatingly loud. Finally, topping the chart as the loudest sound ever recorded is the Tunguska Meteor event in Russia, where a massive explosion caused by a meteor shook the area, and became the loudest sound ever recorded.
Protecting Your Hearing
One way to know when you need to protect your hearing is to download a free decibel reader app on your smartphone which will tell you when sounds are dangerous. Always carry a pair of earplugs with you, so that you can protect your hearing. Both foam ear plugs and wax ear plugs are effective for moderately loud sounds, and are inexpensive and very lightweight. If you’re exposed to extremely loud sounds, you may want to invest in earmuffs or even custom molded digital hearing protection so that you’ll have peace of mind knowing your ears are safe. On the commute to work, keep the windows closed to minimize sound, and refuse the urge to crank up the volume on the radio.
Ready to learn more about your hearing health, and the sounds that could be damaging your hearing? Visit us today at South Shore Hearing Center!