Is It Too Loud In Here, Or Is It Just Me?
Is It Too Loud In Here, Or Is It Just Me?
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The Hazards of Loud Noise
What do a Harry Styles concert and an airplane have in common? Here is a hint: both may leave you with less hearing than you had before. If you said they are both very loud, you’re right. They’re places that expose young people to extreme noise levels. With loud noise comes the risk of permanent hearing loss.
The result is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, when sounds are too loud or when they are loud and last for a long time, they may be harmful. Such sounds “can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear” and cause NIHL. Even if you have never gone to a concert or flown on a plane, loud noise can come from places you don’t expect, like headphones or a hair dryer.
Who’s at Risk for NIHL?
However, you’re not the only one who may be facing NIHL. A study from BMJ Global Health found that, of the 2.8 billion people in the world who are ages 12–24, about 1.5 billion are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. Youth like us are the largest demographic at risk for NIHL. So, it is crucial to know its risk factors and how to prevent them.
Symptoms of NIHL
There’s a difference between hearing ringing in your ears after a concert and not being able to hear at all. Extremely loud bursts of sound can rupture your eardrum and cause permanent damage to your hearing. This can cause immediate hearing loss. Common symptoms of hearing damage include ringing in your ears or temporary hearing loss.
Long-term exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the ear or make them die. These cells, also known as sensory cells, help create electrical signals, which get sent to the brain. The brain then turns these signals into sounds. The hair cells are in the cochlea, a hollow snail-shaped tube that’s filled with fluids. When the incoming, vibrating sound waves can’t move the fluid inside the cochlea, hearing loss occurs.
Sources of Loud Noise
Young people should know that there are many sources of loud noise. These sources include earbuds and Bluetooth speakers. Given that people may not know how dangerous the noise levels from these technologies can be, many people may already have NIHL. A 2006 study from the journal Pediatrics found that 17% of teens had NIHL in one or both ears.
Long-Term Effects of Loud Noise
The risk for long-term effects from loud noise depends on how much, how long, and how often the noises are above the recommended level. It’s vital to notice and deal with temporary hearing loss before it becomes permanent.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
Knowing about NIHL is one of the best ways to prevent permanent hearing loss. Unfortunately, once you lose your hearing, you can’t get it back. Some treatments, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, are expensive and come with a lengthy approval process. It’s best to avoid having to use them by preventing hearing loss in the first place. If you know you’re at risk for hearing loss, there are steps you can take to prevent it below. As a rule of thumb, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “If you need to shout… the sound is too loud.”
Check out this resource from the Center for Disease Control: How Do I Know if I Have Hearing Loss Caused by Loud Noise? | NCEH | CDC
Three ways to prevent hearing loss are to
- Stay away from loud noises
- Take breaks from loud noises
- Avoid loud noises
There are two different settings to think about here:
- Going to the source of the loud noise, like going to the Harry Styles concert
- Causing the source of the loud noise, like driving the car with the radio on high
How Loud Is It?
The Hearing Health Foundation lists several sound meter apps for mobile devices that can detect loud noises. Some mobile devices’ health-related apps include decibel measures, a unit of measurement for sound. If the noise is above 85 decibels (similar to a noisy restaurant), it may damage your hearing ability.
What Do You Hear?
A Hertz (Hz) is another measure for sound. While a decibel detects how loud a noise is, a Hertz tests your level of hearing. People with normal hearing can hear sounds between 20 to 20,000 Hz. The video below goes up to 16,000 Hz.
How to Protect Your Hearing
If you can’t avoid loud noise, you can use hearing protection. Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as the two most common earplugs and earmuffs, can protect your hearing if used properly. The more youth use it, the more youth will protect themselves from hearing loss. Protective devices come in many shapes and forms. You should choose the one that fits your needs and the situation you’re in.
How to Choose PPE
The important takeaway is that if you need to give others protection, foam earbuds are cheap and easy to distribute.
The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health shares an overview of PPE to help you decide which device is right for you.
When it comes to taking care of their health, people often take their hearing for granted. If you think you have hearing loss, make it a priority to get it checked during your annual physical exam. You should also ask if it’s appropriate to get a screening from an audiologist (a hearing specialist). You can find more information from the Mayo Clinic about treatments for hearing loss and how to support yourself and inform others.
So go to that concert, listen to music, and fly on that plane, but protect yourself from losing your hearing and help others to have better hearing health.