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What actually happens to our ears when they’re subjected to noise: a complete guide to the mechanics of noise induced hearing loss.
First things first, what is noise-induced hearing loss?
Every day, we experience sound. Some of these sounds, naturally, are above what’s considered the safe zone of hearing. When our ears are exposed to noises above the safe zone, we sustain damage. We’ve covered the extent to which people are unaware of just how easy damage can occur in this post, but suffice to say it’s very easy to unwittingly cause NIHL.
Sounds above 85 decibels are generally considered unsafe, some quick examples include:
Both the length of time you’re exposed to the noise and your distance to the source of the sound will also have a heavy impact.
Exactly how does noise damage our hearing?
First, a brief step by step of exactly how our hearing works:
So what is hearing loss?
Put simply, NIHL results from irreparable damage to the stereocilia themselves. Human hair cells simply don’t grow back (it’s for this reason that male pattern baldness is permanent, Wayne Rooney excepted).
As a result, the process is short circuited and the signal is unable to reach the auditory nerve.
Is this instant?
On some occasions, permanent hearing damage can arise almost instantly (such as when the ear is in the immediate vicinity of an exceptionally loud noise). However, it’s more common for the damage to take place over a longer period and at a more gradual rate.
Can NIHL be prevented?
Yes. As we’ve mentioned before, there are a number of ways in which you can help to prevent damage to your hearing: