- Well­ness: Pro­tect Your Hear­ing

Howler Magazine - - Featured Contents - By Dr. Her­bert Wein­man

Is your TV con­stantly blast­ing? Is your av­er­age day filled with sounds of jack­ham­mers, lawn mow­ers, lum­ber­ing trucks, rock mu­sic blar­ing through stereo head­phones or other in­tru­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal noises? If so, your hear­ing is at risk. To­day's world poses many dan­gers to hear­ing, but pro­tec­tion is avail­able.

The hu­man ear is one of the most com­plex and del­i­cate or­gans ever de­vised by na­ture. It con­tains three cham­bers: outer, mid­dle and in­ner. The outer ear, the ap­pendage on the side of the head, fo­cuses sound and con­tains the open­ing of the ear canal, a shaft mea­sur­ing from one-half inch to one inch long, sealed at one end by the eardrum.

The eardrum is a piece of tis­sue in the shape of a flat­tened cone, its apex fac­ing in­ward. It at­taches to a tiny ring of bone. The mid­dle and in­ner ear are kept at a con­stant tem­per­a­ture by the shape of the ear canal and its lin­ing of fine hairs and wax-se­cret­ing glands. The mid­dle ear and its three tiny bones trans­mit sound waves to the in­ner ear, which is where mi­cro­scopic hair cells with del­i­cate nerve end­ings con­vert vi­bra­tions into elec­tri­cal sig­nals. The brain re­quires those sig­nals to give mean­ing to sounds.

In­tense and sus­tained noise over­load and can kill those tiny hair cells in the in­ner ear. This can oc­cur sud­denly as in an ex­plo­sion, or grad­u­ally with re­peated ex­po­sure to loud noise such as that ex­pe­ri­enced through ear-am­pli­fy­ing de­vices. Re­duc­ing ex­po­sure to loud noise is the key to con­serv­ing your hear­ing power.

Noise over­load is so per­va­sive in our so­ci­ety that no one knows for sure how

Less than two hours of ex­po­sure to the sound of rock mu­sic, jet planes, gun­fire and au­to­matic drills can cause hear­ing loss.

much of the so-called “nor­mal” hear­ing loss as­so­ci­ated with ag­ing is ac­tu­ally caused by harm­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal sounds. The risk from ex­po­sure can start in the teen years or even ear­lier.

Sound with an in­ten­sity of 80 deci­bels, such as heavy traf­fic, of­fice ma­chines or noisy restau­rants, can ad­versely af­fect hear­ing. Alarm clocks closer than two feet away, and daily ex­po­sure to fac­tory noises for eight hours or longer, can also cause harm. Dam­age can oc­cur in less than eight hours with re­peated ex­po­sure to noisy home ap­pli­ances, shop tools and lawn mow­ers. Less than two hours of ex­po­sure to the sound of rock mu­sic, jet planes, gun­fire and au­to­matic drills can cause hear­ing loss.

Earplugs or ear­muffs are the best way to pro­tect your ears. Ear­muffs re­duce the in­ten­sity of ma­chine sounds such as from chain­saws and power lawn mow­ers by 30 per­cent. They have the dis­ad­van­tage of be­ing large, bulky and un­com­fort­able in warm weather, and may not fit cor­rectly if you wear glasses or a hear­ing aid. Earplugs and seals also of­fer hear­ing pro­tec­tion in a more com­fort­able man­ner.

One of the best ways to pro­tect against noise dam­age is to stay con­sciously aware of hear­ing loss threats at all times. Ad­just audio de­vices to lower vol­umes, and when­ever pos­si­ble, space out the time in­ter­vals when your ears will be ex­posed to sources of dan­ger­ous noise lev­els.

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