Personal Noise Reduction Devices
Personal noise reduction devices can be passive, active or a combination. Passive ear protection includes earplugs or earmuffs which can block noise up to a specific frequency. Earplugs and earmuffs can provide the wearer with 10 dB to 40 dB of attenuation. However, use of earplugs is only effective if the users have been educated and use them properly without proper use, protection falls far below manufacturer ratings. A Cochrane review found that training of earplug insertion can reduce noise exposure at short term follow-up compared to workers wearing earplugs without training. Higher consistency of performance has been found with custom-molded earplugs. Because of their ease of use without education, and ease of application or removal, earmuffs have more consistency with both compliance and noise attenuation. Active ear protection electronically filter out noises of specific frequencies or decibels while allowing the remaining noise to pass through. A personal attenuation rating can be objectively measured by using a hearing protection fit testing system.
Headphones & Your Health: Can Loud Music Cause Hearing Loss
There’s nothing like listening to your favorite song. There’s also nothing like listening to your favorite song on blast.
But while jamming through a workout or bopping along to your Daily Mix as you work, should you reconsider the volume of your music?
“Our ears are incredibly complex and sensitive. There are thousands of cells with millions of tiny hair-like structures in our inner ear that facilitate hearing, but these cells and structures can be damaged by loud sound,” warns Dr. Brian Wang, ear nose and throat doctor specializing in hearing loss at Houston Methodist. “If damage accumulates over time and causes you to lose hearing, you can’t get it back. Similarly, if you’re exposed acutely to a very loud noise like a firecracker, it’s very hard to recover from that trauma.”
Sounds are everywhere, and the volume of a sound is described in decibels . Sounds less than around 70 dB are safe and won’t typically affect your hearing. As sounds get louder and/or the amount of time you listen to loud sounds gets longer, damage to your hearing becomes more and more likely.
“What many people may not realize is that the maximum volume of personal listening devices is well above 70 dB, and when you’re using earbuds or headphones to listen to your music the sound is going directly into to your ear,” explains Dr. Wang. “Listening to your music too loudly, as well as loudly for extended periods of time, can indeed cause damage to your hearing over time.”
Loud Music And Hearing Loss
Knowing the dangers of exposure to loud music
Do you ever have muffled hearing after being at a nightclub? Do you have ringing in your ears after listening to loud music? These are signs of hearing damage. The music was too loud for your ears to handle. Most of the time the muffled sound and tinnitus is temporary. Your hearing will return after a day or so. But regular exposure to loud music can cause permanent hearing loss.
So how does this happen?
Your ear is a very delicate instrument. When sound vibrations reach the eardrum, they make it vibrate. Inside the middle ear there is a chamber with three small bones. As the eardrum vibrates these bones pick up and amplify the vibration sending it to the inner ear.
The inner ear contains the cochlear. The cochlear is shaped like a snail shell and contains fluid and thousands of microscopic hair cells. The vibration from the middle ear causes the fluid to ripple. Each ripple causes the hair cells to move, creating electrical signals which are sent to the auditory nerve and along to the brain. The brain turns these signals into the recognisable sounds that we hear.
As sound gets louder, the vibrations increase making the fluid move more quickly. When the hair cells move too fast they can bend or break. They cannot repair themselves or grow back, so when they become damaged there are fewer hair cells to transmit sound. Any noise over 85 decibels can damage your hearing.
So what can you do?
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Music Example With Hearing Protection
Personal listening devices can cause hearing loss when played loudly for long periods of time.
Overexposure: 82% of teenagers say they listen to music every day for approximately two and a half hours .
High volume + long duration = damage
The extent of damage is predicted by how LOUD and how LONG they are listening, not what listening device is used.
Preferred volume is subjective and personal. One person’s “too loud” is a safe listening level, while another person’s “quiet” is not. Some phone applications can help estimate risk, but an audiologist’s measurement is more exact. It is important to measure your patient’s typical listening level to help inform them of any possible risks. Measure your patient’s listening level through a manikin.
How Can You Decide Which Noises Are Too Loud
The following signs should be a red flag that the noise around you is too loud:
- If you have to shout to be heard above the noise.
- If you cant understand someone who is speaking to you from less than 2 feet away.
- If a person standing near you can hear sounds from your stereo headset while it is on your head.
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Protect Your Hearing At Clubs Concerts And Festivals
- You can buy a cheap set of discreet earplugs that lower the volume but still maintain the overall sound. These are often referred to as musicians earplugs, but they are perfect for everyone. They usually contain filters that allow through some of the sounds while not blocking some of the harmful frequencies.
- Particularly, if you find yourself coming home from music events with your ears ringing then you need to start considering these.
- You should make it a habit to always carry a set of these around. You can put them on your wallet or keyring for example. Even if you are at a concert with acceptable volume, you can still reach for these if it starts getting too loud.
How Many Decibels Are To Loud
A continuous noise level of 85 dB will result in hearing damage and either cause permanent or temporary hearing loss. This is the sound level of heavy road traffic. Compressed air hammers have a sound level of about 100 dB and rock concerts almost always reach 110-120 dB – the same sound intensity can easily be produced in headsets when you listen to your stereo. Not to mention the noise levels in many schools and kindergartens!
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Can It Be Reversed
Even though scientists are making advancements, currently, there isnt a cure for noise related hearing loss. Some of the damage inside your ear may be due to inflammation so you need to consult a doctor if you have been subjected to sudden loud noise. You might be able to limit the damage that occurs by decreasing inflammation. Sound waves are sent to the brain by the little hair cells inside of the ear. If noise harms or kills them, they wont regenerate. So once theyre gone, permanent hearing impairment is the consequence. Protecting your ears, then, should be top priority, and consulting a specialist if youre presently having hearing trouble.
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Reduce The Risk Of Noise
To reduce your risk of long-term damage, your Omaha audiologist recommends adopting the 60/60 rule: listening to music at 60 percent of maximum volume for 60 minutes at a time and taking a break afterward to give your ears a chance to recover. You should also consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, which generate a sound wave that is 180 degrees opposite of the pitch of background noise, effectively cancelling it out and allowing you to listen to music at lower volume levels.
For more information on safe listening habits, contact an audiologist in Omaha today!
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Exposure To Loud Noise
Sudden or constant exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. There is a normal noise level that your ears can tolerate. When sound exceeds that level, it can instantly damage your hearing. Loud noise can cause your eardrum to rupture or damage the hair cells in your inner ear. This is called acoustic trauma.Hearing loss caused by eardrum rupture can be reversed if the tear in the eardrum heals. In fact, most of these eardrum perforations heal on their own without any medical treatment other than keeping the ear dry. But hearing loss caused by damage to the hair cells in your inner ear due to exposure to loud noise is irreversible. This is because the hair cells cannot be repaired or replaced.
Here’s Why Loud Music Damages Your Hearing
Hearing loss is inevitable, but listening to loud music when you’re younger can make it worse.
Most people have spent a fair amount of time rocking out to loud music, whether at concerts, festivals, parties or at home via headphones . As fun as it is to jam to your favorite songs, continued and repeated exposure to loud music can eventually lead to permanent hearing loss.
To reduce your risk of hearing loss via loud music, learn why and how it can cause hearing loss, and just how loud is too loud.
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Are There Other Options
It might feel like every phone or music player comes packaged with a tiny pair of earbuds. After all, they’re cheap to make and easy to use.
So what can you do? Go retro with headphones. There’s a reason they’re making a comeback. Sometimes old-school is better. Most electronics stores have entire sections devoted to headphones. The best are noise-canceling headphones, which help block out other noises. That way, you don’t have to turn up the volume on your music as loud to hear it well. Noise-canceling headphones also can be good for staying focused on studying or homework, but they’re not great choices if you need to hear the world around you.
Headphones that go over your ears can also damage your hearing if you use them too long or play music too loudly. They’re just not as much of a risk as earbuds are: Having the source of the sound in your ear canal can increase a sound’s volume by 6 to 9 decibels enough to cause some serious problems.
Earbuds exist because so many of us love music. So protect your hearing so you can continue to appreciate music.
How Loud Is Too Loud For Your Ears
If you think the music in your earbuds or headphones isnt very loud, you might be surprised to learn that decibel levels average between 94 and 100 dB if you have the volume turned all the way up, and may get as loud as 139 dB. Keep in mind that the average conversation measures around 60 dB and it becomes clear that listening to music that loud can lead to irreparable loss of hearing.
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How Loud Music Damages Hearing
Inside the cochlea , there are thousands of sound-sensing cells called hair cells. These tiny cells are essential for hearing: they pick up sound waves and turn them into electrical signals that are sent to the brain and interpreted as sound.
Experts agree that hair cells can start to become damaged by noise at 85dB and above. Thats a problem when you consider that music at clubs and concerts is often around 110dB, and some headphones play music thats just as loud when the volume is turned right up.
When youre exposed to too much loud noise, the hair cells become overstimulated. Once this happens, they become fatigued and stop responding to sound. This can result in temporary hearing loss that you may recognise as dulled hearing it can last from a few minutes to a few days.
At first, after a break from loud noise, the hair cells recover. But if you continue listening to music thats too loud, over time the hair cells may lose their ability to recover and die. The hearing loss becomes noticeable and its permanent.
Research has shown that when hair cells are damaged, neurons start searching for electrical signals that arent being received from the ear and may become hyperactive. Its been suggested that this hyperactivity makes the brain more aware of the electrical noise from the neurons, which is heard as tinnitus.
What Type Of Hearing Loss Is Caused By Loud Noise
Whether you attend concerts, play guitar in a band or simply enjoy listening to music through earbuds or headphones, you are putting your hearing at risk unless you take precautions. Loud music can cause permanent hearing loss if you arent careful.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a top health concern not only in Omaha, but across the U.S. Exposure to loud sounds can cause irreversible damage to the sensory hair cells in the cochlea. These guys are responsible for converting sounds into electrical impulses that are forwarded to the brain for interpretation when they are damaged or die, the signals become altered. Any sound that exceeds 85 decibels can cause harm the louder the sound, the less safe exposure time you have before risking long-term hearing loss. NIHL can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The more you are exposed to loud sounds, the higher the likelihood your condition will become permanent.
Can Nihl Be Prevented
NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. If you understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health, you can protect your hearing for life. Heres how:
- Know which noises can cause damage.
- Wear earplugs or other protective devices when involved in a loud activity .
- If you cant reduce the noise or protect yourself from it, move away from it.
- Be alert to hazardous noises in the environment.
- Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
- Make family, friends, and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.
- Have your hearing tested if you think you might have hearing loss.
Who Can Get Noise
We can all get a noise-induced hearing loss. If we exposure ourselves to prolonged loud sounds and noises for longer periods or experience a sudden very loud sound such as an explosion, we are at risk of getting a noise-induced hearing loss.
People who have a noisy job are particularly at risk, especially if they work in noise for a longer period of time and do not use hearing protection.
Concert goers and musicians are also at high risk. They must also remember to wear earplugs or other types of hearing protection.
Military personnel are at risk of a noise-induced hearing loss due to the explosions from grenades and other loud noises, e.g., from heavy vehicles.
Finally, people who use noisy tools in their leisure time and do not use hearing protection are also at risk.
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Take Precautions At Work
If you’re exposed to loud noises through your work, speak to your human resources department or occupational health manager.
Your employer is obliged to make changes to reduce your exposure to loud noise, for example, by:
- switching to quieter equipment if possible
- making sure you’re not exposed to loud noise for long periods
- providing hearing protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs
Make sure you wear any hearing protection you’re given.
Can I Prevent Hearing Impairment
Many cases of hearing loss or deafness are not preventable however, hearing loss caused by loud noise can be prevented, and prevention efforts can start at any age . There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of this type of hearing loss.
The intensity of sound is measured in units called , and any sounds over 80 decibels are considered hazardous with prolonged exposure. These include things like loud music, sirens and engines, and power tools such as jackhammers and leaf blowers.
To reduce the risk of permanent hearing damage, you can:
- Turn down the volume on your stereo, TV, and especially the headset on your music player.
- Wear earplugs if youre going to a loud concert or other event . Special protective earmuffs are a good idea if you operate a lawn mower or leaf or snow blower, or at a particularly loud event, like a car race. If you feel your hearing is different after being at an event with a lot of noise , it means youre probably experiencing a temporary hearing loss due to noise. Dont worry, it will go away , but it means that next time you want to participate in the same event, you should wear protection for your ears to avoid a permanent hearing loss.
- See your doctor right away if you suspect any problems with your hearing, and get your hearing tested on a regular basis.
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How Do Headphones Cause Hearing Loss
If you think about the human ear, it makes sense that it is not suited for loud noises. The ear has developed to detect even very low-level sounds. Why? Its a natural survival tool. Just look at prey animals like rabbits or deer. Their hearing is absolutely exceptional as it helps them avoid predators. Your ear has evolved in much the same way. It might not be as sensitive as a rabbits, but it isnt just there to help you communicate its there to help you avoid danger. In the natural world, youll rarely come across very loud noises, but instead quiet and subtle ones. This means the human ear has not evolved to manage loud noise but is built to pick up on gentle sounds. Thus, when we introduce artificially loud sound through headphones or earbuds, we can end up damaging our ears.
Your ear is a very complicated system, but in simple terms, sound is created as a sensory reaction in your brain following the vibration of tiny hairs within a chamber in your inner ear. Friction between different surfaces results in movement in the air, and this movement causes these hairs to vibrate in different ways, creating different sounds.
Loud music increases the strength of these vibrations. If the vibrations are too intense for too long, the hairs are unable to cope with the load and stop working properly. Depending on how long you listened to music for, and how loud the music was, two things can happen: