- Wellness: Protect Your Hearing
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.