Friday, June 9, 2017

Impact of Noise on Hearing Loss

This week, I have a guest, Kate Willett, who will address an important issue about protecting our children's hearing.  Kate is a freelance writer located in Los Angeles, CA.  She writes about health, politics, and comedy.  She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

Many of us spent our teenage years listening to our parents warn that if we kept listening to music that loudly, we might damage our hearing.  Is there any truth to it?

Hearing loss in one ear can be caused by a variety of factors including:

  • Illness
  • Injury
  • A foreign blockage in the ear
  • Wax
  • Tumor

If the hearing loss is in both ears and is sudden, it might be caused by:

  • malformation of the inner ear
  • head injury or trauma
  • prolonged exposure to loud noise
  • neurologic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis
  • an immune system disease, such as Cogan syndrome
  • Meniere disease, which is a disorder that affects the inner ear
  • Lyme disease, which is an infectious disease that’s often transmitted through tick bites
  • ototoxic medication, which can harm the ear
  • venom from a snake bite
  • blood circulation problems
  • abnormal tissue growth or tumors
  • blood vessel disease
  • aging

Despite the many causes of hearing loss, acoustic trauma is one of the most common. Surprisingly, noise is an even bigger cause of hearing loss than age. According to the New York Times, “Tens of millions of Americans, including 12 percent to 15 percent of school-age children, already have permanent hearing loss caused by the everyday noise that we take for granted as a fact of life.”

Acoustic trauma is injury to inner ear that’s the result of loud noise.  It can be caused by one very loud noise, such as an explosion, or from long-term exposure to loud noise at a lower decibal such as rock concerts or listening to music loudly with ear buds.  Those at high risk include:

  • People who work in jobs with loud industrial equipment
  • People who live or work in areas where loud noises, such as construction, occur for long periods of times
  • Musicians or people who attend many loud concerts
  • People who use gun ranges
  • People who encounter very loud sounds without using ear plugs

When you’re exposed to very loud noises, your eardrum may be ruptured or other injuries to the inner ear may occur.  

Sound causes your eardrums to vibrate, and those vibrations are transmitted to your inner ear. Fluid carries the vibrations to hair cells, which stimulate the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve carries the impulses to your brain, which interprets them as sounds. Most noise related hearing loss is caused by the death of the hair cells.

The effects of noise exposure are cumulative, which means that many older people experience hearing loss.

To protect yourself from acoustic trauma:

  • Use ear plugs when around loud noise
  • Don’t listen to music loudly
  • Be mindful about the time you spend around loud noises

Acoustic trauma cannot be reversed, so be careful with your ears.  If you’re experiencing hearing loss of any kind, see your doctor immediately to identify the causes.  Unfortunately, your parents were right.  If you want to protect your hearing into old age, turn that music down.


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  2. Nice and informative article. Hope to see more from you.