How Can Noise Damage Our Hearing
To understand how loud noises can damage our hearing, we have to understand how we hear. Hearing depends on a series of events that change sound waves in the air into electrical signals. Our auditory nerve then carries these signals to the brain through a complex series of steps.
Stereocilia perch atop sensory hair cells in the inner ear.
: Yoshiyuki Kawashima
Why Do Loud Noises Cause Your Ears To Ring
Think back to the last time you went to a rock ‘n’ roll concert or a fireworks display. Do you remember that peculiar ringing in your ears after the show stopped? The noises around you were muffled briefly, replaced with a buzzing inside your head, almost as if your ears were screaming. In a way, they were.
Noise levels louder than a shouting match can damage parts of our inner ears called haircells. Hair cells act as the gatekeepers of our hearing. When sound waves hit them, they convert those vibrations into electrical currents that our auditory nerves carry to the brain. Without hair cells, there is nothing for the sound to bounce off, like trying to make your voice echo in the desert.
Hair cells reside in the inner ear inside the shell-shaped cochlea. Bundles of hair-like extensions, called stereocilia, rest on top of them. When sound waves travel through the ears and reach the hair cells, the vibrations deflect off the stereocilia, causing them to move according to the force and pitch of the vibration. For instance, a melodic piano tune would produce gentle movement in the stereocilia, while heavy metal would generate faster, sharper motion. This motion triggers an electrochemical current that sends the information from the sound waves through the auditory nerves to the brain.
Read on to find out exactly how something invisible like sound can harm our ears, how you can protect those precious hair cells and what happens when the ringing never stops.
Prolonged Exposure To Loud Noise
Constant exposure to loud noise is a major cause of tinnitus. Loud noise can cause permanent damage to the cells in the cochlea.
Recreational and occupational noises from sources like heavy equipment, bombs, firearms, concerts, clubs, and chainsaws can also lead to tinnitus. The effects of the noise on the ear can either be temporary or permanent.
The duration of the tinnitus is dependent on how long the exposure lasted. In some cases, the tinnitus can degenerate to loss of hearing.
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Sometimes Tinnitus Doesnt Just Disappear
If your tinnitus doesnt diminish within the span of three months or so, the ailment is then classified chronic tinnitus .
Around 5-15% of individuals globally have reported symptoms of chronic tinnitus. While there are some recognized close connections , the causes of tinnitus arent yet very well understood.
When the triggers of your tinnitus arent clear, it usually means that a fast cure will be evasive. There is a good possibility that your tinnitus wont go away on its own if you have been hearing the ringing for more than three months. In those cases, there are treatment possibilities available that can help you control symptoms and protect your quality of life.
Medical Causes Of Tinnitus
Anemia, allergies, impacted earwax, diabetes and an underactive thyroid gland are all common medical conditions that can be associated with tinnitus and sometimes hearing loss.
Less often, other underlying medical conditions or injuries can trigger tinnitus. If you have tinnitus, start your treatment path by seeking out a hearing healthcare professional who specializes in tinnitus diagnostics so they can help identify the underlying cause. If the common causes for tinnitus are ruled out, the practitioner will refer you to another specialist for further evaluation and treatment.
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Why Does My Roof Make A Loud Cracking Noise
When pressure builds, joints and other areas of connections, such as nails and metal plates between the roof and attic walls, may move slightly, with one component or connection moving away from or toward another. The energy released by this movement is what causes the loud banging or cracking sound.
Hearing Loss & Noise Damage Are Big Factors
The exact cause is unknown, but most experts think nerve damage from noise exposure is the main reason. The current theory is that damage or dysfunction occurs along the nerve pathways that detect sound waves and deliver sound to your brain. This leads to disrupted hearing and sound processing, including tinnitus.
There are many different places in the inner ear and auditory nerve where such damage could occur, meaning tinnitus is likely not just one diseasewith one simple treatment. Also, a person often has multiple risk factors and medical conditions, making it hard to know if there’s a single culprit.
If you have a history of loud noise exposure, you are at high risk of tinnitus.
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How Does Loud Noise Cause Hearing Loss
Noise can damage hair cells, membranes, nerves, or other parts of your ear. This can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. Learn how this happens so that you can prevent hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Can Be Temporary or Permanent
Hearing loss is a decrease in your ability to hear or understand speech and sounds around you. Hearing loss can happen when any part of the ear or the nerves that carry information on sounds to your brain do not work in the usual way. In some cases, hearing loss can be temporary. However, it can become permanent when vital parts of the ear have been damaged beyond repair. Damage to any part of the ear can lead to hearing loss.
Loud noise is particularly harmful to the inner ear . A one-time exposure to extreme loud sound or listening to loud sounds for a long time can cause hearing loss. Loud noise can damage cells and membranes in the cochlea. Listening to loud noise for a long time can overwork hair cells in the ear, which can cause these cells to die. The hearing loss progresses as long as the exposure continues. Harmful effects might continue even after noise exposure has stopped. Damage to the inner ear or auditory neural system is generally permanent.
Damaged Hair Cells in Your Ears Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Can Also Damage Nerves in Your Ears
How Do We Hear?
We hear sound because of vibrations that reach our ears. We recognize those vibrations as speech, music, or other sounds.
Evaluate And Treat Underlying Problems
If you develop tinnitus, it’s important to see your clinician. She or he will take a medical history, give you a physical examination, and do a series of tests to try to find the source of the problem. She or he will also ask you to describe the noise you’re hearing and the times and places in which you hear it. Your clinician will review your medical history, your current and past exposure to noise, and any medications or supplements you’re taking. Tinnitus can be a side effect of many medications, especially when taken at higher doses .
Musculoskeletal factors jaw clenching, tooth grinding, prior injury, or muscle tension in the neck sometimes make tinnitus more noticeable, so your clinician may ask you to tighten muscles or move the jaw or neck in certain ways to see if the sound changes. If tight muscles are part of the problem, massage therapy may help relieve it.
Tinnitus that’s continuous, steady, and high-pitched generally indicates a problem in the auditory system and requires hearing tests conducted by an audiologist. Pulsatile tinnitus calls for a medical evaluation, especially if the noise is frequent or constant. MRI or CT imaging may be needed to check for a tumor or blood vessel abnormality.
If you’re often exposed to loud noises at work or at home, it’s important to reduce the risk of hearing loss by using protectors such as earplugs or earmuff-like or custom-fitted devices.
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What Causes Hearing Of Such Tormenting Ear Noises
Usually, the kind of noises that are produced inside the ear may often be in the nature of sounds like whistling, popping, buzzing, hissing, crackling, blowing, roaring, ting, sizzling, ringing, humming, booming and several other types.
These various kinds of sounds are of the non-outside form and can thus, torment many individuals, especially those who are affected by the infection in the ear.
The infection in the ear, also called Tinnitus, has its own share of causes. It mainly occurs in persons due to one or more reasons, which are:
- Abnormality in the blood vessel around the outer ear
- Muscle spasm which produces sounds like clicks or cracklings in the middle ear
- Acoustic neuroma
As you may know, our ears are a sensitive organ and even the slightest damage, whether direct or indirect, can render the ears to malfunction. In certain cases, such damages may even cause the ears to lose the ability to hear permanently, if not treated.
Estimates show that more than a million individuals around the world suffer from Tinnitus. Those persons who experience hearing of unwanted sounds that have nothing to do with the outside factors, do not find them pleasing.
Sometimes, the sounds may occur temporarily, which may range from a few seconds to a few minutes. However, individuals who experience this sort of a problem on a regular basis, hear sounds which lasts for over 20 minutes, at times, for a much longer duration.
Types Of Noises In The Ear
You may experience the following noises in the ears which seem to torment as well as irritating.
1. Crackling or clicking noise
The crackling of ear is a sensation of sound causing distress, lack of sleep, anxiety, poor performance at work and decreased mood, etc. that occurs within the delicate structures of the ear.
It is a type of rhythmic thumping, throbbing, or whooshing only you can hear that is often in time with the heartbeat. Most people with pulsatile tinnitus hear the sound in one ear, though some hear it in both. The sound is the result of turbulent flow in blood vessels in the neck or head.
The sounds like ringing, whistling, weird sounds of wind, roaring, hissing, humming, sizzling, etc is caused due to tinnitus. You may hear these ringing or buzzing sounds when you are exposed to the loud noise for a longer period of time.
It is estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, a medical condition that manifests as a persistent ringing, whooshing, or swishing sound in your ear. Because the sound originates from inside the ear, people suffering from tinnitus may feel like an ocean is roaring inside their heads.
Blood vessel problems, such as high blood pressure, an aneurysm or a tumor, and blockage of the ear canal or eustachian tube can amplify the sound of your heartbeat in your ears and you may hear rushing sounds in your ear.
6. Bubble Popping noise in an ear
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How Long Does The Ringing Last
Occasional exposure to loud noise can bring about temporary tinnitus. Ringing thats accompanied by a muffled sound may also indicate noise-induced hearing loss. These symptoms often go away within 16 to 48 hours. In extreme cases, it may take a week or two. Further exposure to extremely loud noises can also trigger the ringing again.
Sometimes this hearing loss can develop into tinnitus that lasts more than six months. This is a common condition that may cause long-term issues, but is rarely a sign that youre going deaf or have a medical problem.
If youre a frequent concertgoer, performing musician, or find yourself exposed to loud noises often, you may want to take steps to prevent long-term hearing loss.
Hearing loss is expected to rise dramatically in the coming decades. Learn more about it.
Hearing Aids Can Do Double Duty
Hearing aids may be the answer to tinnitus for people who have hearing loss.
By using hearing aids, you not only help reduce the awareness of the tinnitus, but you also improve your ability to hear as well, says Dr. Sandridge.
Some hearing aids have a built-in sound generator that produces ocean wave sounds or white or pink noise. These sounds provide relief by decreasing your awareness of the tinnitus by having your brain pay attention to the other neutral, non-threatening sounds. This promotes a process called habituation , which eventually will allow you to be aware of your tinnitus only when you actively listen for it.
In this case, the tinnitus is not gone, but you no longer pay attention to it unless you focus on it, she says. Our goal is to get you to the point where youre basically tuning the tinnitus out.
All in all, dont just wait and hope your tinnitus will go away. Talk to your primary care physician and audiologist if you notice ringing in your ears or other problems with your hearing. They can help you pinpoint your problem and help you find the relief you need.
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What Causes Hyperacusis
If a radio signal was poor, you might turn up the volume to compensate. Similarly, your brains auditory system may turn its volume control “up”the medical name for this phenomenon is “auditory gain”to compensate for damage to a nerve that has led to incomplete information. A loud sound really is louder to you.
Why would that happen? Causes of hyperacusis include:
- damage to one or both ears because of medications or toxins
- a viral infection that affects your inner ear or facial nerve.
An article in the journal Noise & Health reports that several illnesses are more common than usual among people with hyperacusisand may share a joint cause or trigger hyperacusis as a symptom. These include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder , temporomandibular joint disorder, Lyme disease, Tay-Sachs disease, migraines, certain kinds of epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Meniere’s disease, and autism spectrum disorder.
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.
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Often Times Tinnitus Doesnt Just Go Away
If your tinnitus persists for over three months its then referred to as chronic tinnitus .
Around 5-15% of individuals globally have documented indications of chronic tinnitus. While there are some recognized close connections , the causes of tinnitus arent yet very well understood.
Normally, a quick cure for tinnitus will be elusive if the triggers arent evident. There is a good possibility that your tinnitus wont go away by itself if you have been hearing the ringing for over three months. In those cases, there are treatment possibilities available that can help you deal with symptoms and protect your quality of life.
What Is Causing My Ears To Ring
Ear ringing is a condition that is perceived only by the person experiencing it. Some people may hear high-pitched sounds, others may hear a clicking, while others may experience something totally different. When someone complains of ringing, buzzing, or clicking in their ears it is called tinnitus.
Ringing in your ears has many causes. If you’ve just attended a concert and you’re wondering why your ears are ringing, you’ll be happy to know that the ringing will likely go away in a day or two.
The bad news is you likely suffered some mild hearing loss from being exposed to loud noise over a significant period of time. Loud noise is just one cause of ear ringing , other causes include the following.
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What Are Researchers Doing To Better Understand Tinnitus
Along the path a hearing signal travels to get from the inner ear to the brain, there are many places where things can go wrong to cause tinnitus. If scientists can understand what goes on in the brain to start tinnitus and cause it to persist, they can look for those places in the system where a therapeutic intervention could stop tinnitus in its tracks.
In 2009, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders sponsored a workshop that brought together tinnitus researchers to talk about the condition and develop fresh ideas for potential cures. During the course of the workshop, participants discussed a number of promising research directions, including: