These noises are normally at safe levels that do not harm our hearing. However, noises can be hazardous if they are extremely loud, even if just for a short period of time, or if they are both loud and long-lasting. These noises have the potential to harm sensitive tissues in the inner ear, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The human ear is very sensitive to sounds between 140 and 160 decibels (dB), so even a small amount of exposure to high-intensity sounds can lead to hearing loss. However, most noises that we encounter every day are not high-intensity sounds; rather, they are moderate intensity sounds that do not cause any harm.
Noise-induced hearing loss begins with mild changes in hearing ability. As NIHL progresses, these changes become more severe. If NIHL is not treated soon after it has been established, it may lead to complete deafness. However, even without becoming completely deaf, those who suffer from NIHL may need to use special equipment to reduce the volume level of certain noises or avoid situations where they would be exposed to excessive sound pressure levels.
People who work in environments where they are exposed to loud noises on a regular basis should seek out opportunities to protect their hearing. Some actions that can help prevent NIHL include: listening to music through headphones when working in noisy environments, keeping noise-canceling devices turned off while trying not to disturb others, and avoiding firearms, power tools, and other dangerous instruments when possible.
Loud sounds are especially damaging to the inner ear (cochlea). Hearing loss can be caused by a single exposure to excessively loud noises or by listening to loud sounds over an extended period of time. Loud sounds can harm the cochlea's cells and membranes. This can lead to hearing loss.
The outer ear (pinna) is also vulnerable to excessive force. It can become bruised, torn, or develop a cut when hit forcefully against something hard. This type of injury usually does not cause hearing loss unless it allows fluid to enter the ear drum. That happens when the ear drum is perforated by glass or metal. The fluid inside the ear pushes the drum up against the eardrum, which causes pain and hearing loss.
If you listen to loud music for long periods of time, you may damage your hearing. Hearing loss is one of the most common problems associated with listening to loud music.
Hearing loss due to excessive noise occurs in two stages. In the early stage, high-frequency sounds are affected first. As the disease progresses, lower frequency sounds are lost as well. People who suffer from hearing loss often report that some songs sound fine at low volumes but hurt at higher levels. This is because they cannot hear the low frequencies in songs anymore.
Excessive noise can also cause psychological effects like anxiety and depression.
As long as the exposure continues, the hearing loss worsens. Over time, the cochlea may completely destroy itself due to excessive noise exposure.
People who work in sound-intensive jobs such as rock music musicians, radio station disc jockeys, and studio engineers are at risk for hearing loss. If you work in a job where you must listen to loud noises on a regular basis, it is important that you take measures to protect your hearing. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends using protective gear such as headphones, earmuffs, and safety belts when working around loud equipment.
In addition, people who play sports such as football, hockey, and basketball are at risk for injury to their ears. Excessive force applied to the head during athletic activity can lead to hearing loss. Young athletes particularly are at risk for hearing problems because of their active lifestyles and lack of experience with pain tolerance. Sports coaches should know how much force is safe for young players' ears and refrain from practices that use too much noise.
Finally, older adults are at risk for hearing loss due to medical procedures and diseases commonly found in aging populations.
Extremely loud noises, such as an explosion or listening to loud music, can generate sound waves powerful enough to damage the eardrum. Loud sounds can potentially cause temporary or permanent cochlear damage. The ear consists of three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
Damage to the outer ear can result in deformity or loss of hearing ability. This can be caused by excessive exposure to noise from guns or motorcycles, for example. The ear can also be damaged by infections or tumors. If you have any symptoms on opening up an envelope, putting your phone up to your ear, or other common ear activities, see a doctor immediately. Hearing tests can show how much hair is left on the inside of your ear, which doctors use to diagnose cancer. However, many other diseases can cause similar problems, so only doctors can make that determination using modern testing methods.
Damage to the middle ear occurs when there is impact to the head or neck with sufficient force to break the bones within the ear. This can happen in a car accident, for example. The skull protects the middle ear cavity, which contains the three small bones (malleus, incus, and stapes) that vibrate against one another to transmit sound energy through the fluid-filled cochlea into the brain.