Loud noise exposure is the second biggest cause of hearing loss with about 11,000 people in the UK suffering from noise-induced hearing problems caused or made worse by work. Noise-induced hearing loss, however, can also occur as a result of listening to music with the volume too high, attending loud events like concerts or festivals, being in proximity to loud bursts of sound such as gunshots, and many other circumstances.
To protect your hearing and prevent damage during activities like these, it is important to wear ear protection. These are the reasons why:
1. Hearing Is Easy to Damage
As amazing as our hearing system is, it is quite fragile. Long exposure to any sound over 80dB(A) can cause damage, but even short, loud noises can hurt your ears. As you get older, the inner hair cells inside the ear responsible for transmitting sound to your brain begin to deteriorate, causing your hearing to worsen. If you damage your hearing due to noise exposure at a younger age, however, you might struggle to hear at all when you get older.
This can lead to difficulty communicating, social withdrawal and isolation, and even cognitive decline.
2. Hearing Loss Can Be Irreversible
Most people are born with around 16,000 inner hair cells within their cochlea. Up to 30%-50% of those can be either damaged or destroyed before you notice changes in your hearing that can be measured by a hearing test.
After exposure to loud noise (when you leave a football game, for example) you might notice you don’t hear as well as before. Your normal hearing, however, is likely to return within a few hours to a few days. This happens because your hair cells (similarly to blades of grass) react to loud sounds by bending. After a recovery period, they become straight again.
Sometimes, however, if the loud noise has damaged too many of them, some will die. Once hair cells are destroyed, they can’t be repaired or replaced. This results in hearing loss that is irreversible.
3. Loud Noise Exposure Causes Tinnitus
In addition to leading to hearing loss, exposure to loud noise can also cause tinnitus. This can sound like a constant buzzing, ringing, hissing, or whooshing noise that can become incredibly annoying and even upsetting, taking a serious toll on your mental health and quality of life. Many kinds of loud noises can lead to tinnitus, even those you might not think of as dangerous, such as the sound of a lawnmower, for example.
Whilst tinnitus from loud noise usually resolves itself within a few days, it can sometimes continue constantly, or it can keep occurring sporadically throughout your life. Although there are various treatments that can help alleviate its symptoms, tinnitus is not currently treatable.
4. Noise Can Damage the Auditory Nerve
Over time, damage to the hair cells inside the cochlea can also lead to deterioration of the auditory nerve responsible for transmitting sound signals from the inner ear to the brain, causing a decline in its function and leading to additional hearing difficulties.
In addition to physical damage, loud noises can also cause changes in the electrical activity of the auditory nerve fibres, leading to changes in how sounds are processed by the brain. This can result in difficulty understanding speech, especially in noisy environments.
Protecting Your Hearing
Hearing protection helps prevent the issues outlined above by reducing the amount of noise that reaches the inner ear. This can include using earmuffs, earplugs, or other devices.
Using hearing protection is especially important for individuals who are frequently exposed to loud noises such as workers in construction, manufacturing, or military, as well as musicians, concertgoers, and recreational shooters. By protecting your ears, you can reduce the risk of hearing loss and maintain healthy hearing for years to come.
Hearing Aid Accessories offer a wide range of ear protection and CENS products which are perfect for situations like these. Our hearing protection solutions are durable, hypoallergenic, and enable situational awareness, natural hearing, and communication so you can still enjoy your favourite activities while protecting your ears. Click the button below to browse our range!