Are Your Headphones Leading To Hearing Loss?

Music is an almost magical force amongst us little humans. We’ve created a wide spectrum of music that can scratch every itch that we can possibly have as a species. Unless you hate music as a concept, there’s no doubt that the right music for you is somewhere out there, be it rock or hip hop or classical or something else entirely.

In some ways, though, our love of music can cause a few problems. How so? Well, one of the biggest, most common issues that our love of music can have is that we play it at obscene volumes on a regular basis.

If you’ve ever listened to your favorite song through your headphones at a blaring volume or been at a lively concert, your ears may not have been as much of a fan as you were. But why are loud noises not the best for our ears, and what can we do to change it? That’s the topic of our February blog!

A Brief Primer On How Our Ears Work

So, we’re sure you don’t want a PhD lecture on how the ears function, but understanding the basics will give you an idea of why loud noises aren’t great. So how do these small but crucial organs operate?

The most common way to understand the ear is to section it into three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear is the part you can see from the outside, while both the middle and inner ear aren’t visible (mostly) without some sort of equipment.

The Outer Ear

As stated above, the outer ear is the visible portion of the ear and it acts as a complex funnel for sound waves. Since sound is simple pressure waves propagating through air molecules, the ear is designed to connect those pressure waves and channel them to more complex areas of the ear.

Damage to this area certainly isn’t pleasant or ideal, but it’s also usually not too serious either. After all, most of the really important organs in your body are within you, not on the outside.

The Middle Ear

The middle ear is where things begin to get interesting. For most, the middle ear officially begins at the eardrum. The eardrum receives the sound waves channeled by the outer ear and begins vibrating ossicles in your ear. The ossicles, as you may already know, are the tiniest bones in your body. They are the malleus, incus, and stapes, and they further amplify the sound you receive to the inner ear.

Your middle ear is also home to the Eustachian tube, which is a pressure equalizer between the air outside and in the middle ear. This may sound like a complex process already, but we’re not done yet.

The Inner Ear

Finally, we have the inner ear. Once the sound is amplified by the ossicles, it then enters the cochlea, an organ that looks like a snail’s shell. This spiral organ actually contains fluid that moves when met with vibrations, which interacts with over 25,000 nerve endings!

Lastly, these nerve endings turn these vibrations into electrical impulses that eventually travel to the brain where they are synthesized with your other inputs to create one, multi-faceted experience.

We could go into more detail, but these are the broad strokes of the process. As with most things, there is much more going on than meets the eyes (or the ears for that matter)!

How Loud Sounds Damage Your Ears

So now that we know how the ears work, why are loud sounds like blaring music bad for the ears? Well, according to the CDC, most of the damage manifests in the inner ear. Specifically, hair cells, nerves, or membranes can be over-worked by prolonged and extreme vibrations. Like many other parts of the body, parts of our ears need time to rest and recover.

Think of it like exercising. Working out very hard for short periods of time can be great for your health. But if you do long-term and intense exercise, you can cause temporary or even permanent damage. Your ears are the same way. Short bursts of loud sounds, while not really a good thing, generally aren’t too bad. But extended periods of loud sounds (or frequent exposure to very loud sounds) can kill off hair cells that won’t come back.

“Well, I listen to loud music all the time but I can hear just fine!” The problem with this is that you can lose anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of hair cells before you notice any hearing loss. By then, the problem will very likely be irreversible.

As we’ve just learned, your ear is a collection of fine bodily machinery working in concert to generate an experience for you. To keep it healthy, you shouldn’t be overloading the machinery, as so many of us do with music, loud cars, using firearms without the proper protection, and more.

Trust Mission Hearing With Your Hearing Needs

While the prevention of hearing loss is most important, sometimes that simply isn’t possible. When that happens, our team at Mission Hearing Aid Center is happy to help people regain their hearing with state-of-the-art hearing aid equipment and care. Learn more about what we do by contacting us today!

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