Hearing is one of our essential senses to process our communication requirements so that we can perform our daily life activities in home and office. It also helps us get entrained by participating in chit-chat and watching media.
Since hearing has a particular capacity to endure, it is vital that we don’t let the incoming sounds exceed that capacity. We know these exceeding sounds as noise.
Noise is a serious threat to our auditory health, as it can harm ear parts, causing temporary or permanent hearing impairment. To help deal with this issue, we will discuss the following topics in this post:
- Ear anatomy
- How the hearing process works
- How loud noise affects hearing
Our ear has the following parts:
- Outer ear
- Middle ear
- Inner ear
- Hair cells
- Auditory nerve
It is a functional combination of these ear parts that enable us to listen to the sounds meaningfully.
How does our hearing process work?
The sounds we hear are the vibrations or sound waves which reach our ears. We identify them as various speeches like music and others.
It funnels the vibrations into the ear canal, which further reach to the eardrum.
The sound waves vibrate eardrum, and the resulted vibrations further vibrate the three small bones of the middle ear. These bones forward them to the inner ear with amplified impact.
This is a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear, which is filled with cochlea, a fluid. Sound vibrations cause waves in this fluid, which cause hair cells to bend and convert vibrations into electrical signals.
Auditory nerve forwards the electrical signals to the brain, which helps us take these signals as meaningful sound.
How does loud noise affect hearing?
Loud noise is extremely detrimental to the cochlea. Whether it is single exposure or you constantly hear a loud sound, both are equally damaging.
Loud noise harms the hair cells and membrane in the cochlea, which, in time, can be fatal too. For instance, when you leave an earsplitting music concert, you may experience ear ringing sound in the head, ear-muffing and difficulty hearing.
Because of loud noise, the hair cells have to bend more than their capacity, and they find struggle restoring their normal shape. It may take a few hours or a day or two depending on the intensity and exposure duration.
When you listen to the loud noise constantly, intentionally or unintentionally, it forces the hair cells to overwork. This repeated forced overwork can actually kill the hair cells. Gradually, your ability to comprehend speech in loud environments deteriorates. Ultimately, it starts happening in the quiet environment.
All the ear parts play their particular role to help us listen properly when they are in optimal state. Every part has a particular capacity to endure the sound intensity. When the sound exceeds this capacity, one or more parts fail and cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). To avoid NIHL, use anti-noise ear protective gears. You can also consider using a hearing aid if you already have damaged your hearing.