International health day

Hearing is one of the key senses that allows people to fully experience the world around them. Many people may not think much about their hearing until they face difficulties or hearing loss. However, it is important to understand that hearing is essential for various aspects of our lives, including communication, safety, social connection, and overall quality of life.

Communication

Hearing is crucial for effective communication. Speech and sounds around us enable us to connect with others and express our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Auditory ability helps us distinguish between different sounds, such as speech, music, and natural sounds, contributing to our comprehension and engagement in various communication situations.

Protection

Hearing plays a vital role in recognizing dangers in the environment. Sounds like sirens, alarms, or cries alert us to potential dangers or emergencies. Hearing loss can reduce our ability to quickly perceive and respond to potentially hazardous situations, increasing the risk of accidents.

Social Connection

Hearing also plays a crucial role in social connection. The ability to participate in conversations, hear laughter, music, and other sounds contributes to our inclusion in society. Hearing loss can lead to social isolation, as individuals may find it challenging to participate in social activities or engage in conversations with others.

Quality of Life

Preserved hearing significantly contributes to the overall quality of life. The ability to enjoy music, the sounds of nature, conversations with friends, and participation in various activities enriches our everyday experiences. People with good hearing often experience greater satisfaction and fulfillment in life.

Noise-related hearing problems on the rise

Following cardiovascular disease and hypertension, issues related to hearing are considered the third most prevalent condition in the adult population. Hearing problems can be attributed to various factors, and among them, noise stands out. As an illustration, up to 12 million individuals in the United Kingdom contend with hearing impairments. A specific condition, tinnitus (characterized by ringing in the ears), impacts 10% of British, with 90% of those individuals also experiencing hearing loss.

Excessive noise poses a significant risk to the internal auditory structures, particularly the inner ear (cochlea). A single instance of exposure to exceptionally loud sounds or prolonged exposure to elevated sound levels may lead to adverse effects on hearing. The impact of loud noise extends to potential damage to cells and membranes within the cochlea. Prolonged exposure may place undue stress on the hair cells in the ear, potentially resulting in their demise. The progression of hearing loss is closely tied to the duration of the continued exposure to loud noise. It is important to note that damage to the inner ear or the auditory neural system is typically irreversible.

The Impact of Noise on Hearing

Apart from occupational noise exposure, such as working with machinery in settings like woodworking shops, hearing can also be compromised by exposure to environmental noise exceeding 85 decibels.

Engaging in activities like enjoying loud music at concerts, in clubs, at home, in the car, or through headphones poses potential risks to your ears and hearing. For instance, listening to music at maximum volume through headphones subjects your ears to an intensity of approximately 105 decibels, which exceeds safe levels. Concerts expose our ears to around 100-110 decibels, while motorcycle races and shows may reach approximately 95 decibels.

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Additionally, a single exposure to “impulse” sounds, such as the burst of firecrackers, the roar of fireworks, or the crack of lightning (commonly experienced by military personnel, police, and those engaged in sport shooting), can impact hearing. For example, the sound intensity of firecrackers or lightning can reach about 150 decibels.

Hearing damage can manifest suddenly, as with a loud bang, or gradually. It may be permanent or temporary, affecting one or both ears. The severity of hearing effects is influenced by the loudness of the noise, proximity to the noise source, and the duration of exposure. It is not uncommon for individuals to be unaware of hearing impairment, discovering difficulties in understanding others, particularly during phone conversations or in noisy environments.

How does loud sound damage your hearing

In order to understand how hearing damage happens you must first understand the way ear as an organ works. The outer ear captures sound waves, for example, from a guitar, and transmits them to the eardrum. From there, the sound waves are transferred through the movement of the eardrum to the middle ear, where the hammer, anvil, and stirrup amplify the vibrations and transmit them to the inner ear. In the inner ear, the fluid is disturbed by the incoming waves, stimulating specific hair cell-like structures that respond to individual frequencies or sound intensities. When these cells vibrate, they release chemical substances, creating an electric impulse. This impulse is then transmitted through the nervous system to the auditory centers in the brain, allowing us to hear – for example, the sound of a guitar.

Therefore, when these auditory cells in the inner ear are exposed to excessively loud sounds, they can get damaged due to the overwhelming noise. Regeneration of these cells is believed to be impossible, which could result in permanent hearing loss.

How to protect your ears?

As elsewhere, “prevention is better than cure”. In fact, hearing damage can be prevented quite effectively. If you work in a noisy environment, your superiors must take the necessary measures to protect your hearing (noise cancelling headphones, etc.).

 

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If possible, avoid exposing your ears to noise for long periods of time. So rest your ears more often. For example, they can be soothed and rested by a walk or sitting with the peaceful sounds of nature. Don’t listen to music too loudly at home, in the car or through headphones. Remember that anything with a sound intensity of 85 decibels or more can damage our hearing.

If you like to listen to music at concerts, clubs, etc., or if you like to attend New Year’s Eve firework display, etc., try to stay as far away as possible from the loudspeakers or the site of the fireworks. In addition, you can also reduce the access to your ears of too loud music at concerts, fireworks, etc. by wearing protective earplugs.

Here at Bollsen we offer a complete hearing protection solution, whether it be professional environments, sports activities, or social engagements. We are hoping that you have recognized that good hearing should not be taken for granted and that we can head towards healthy hearing together.