STNYC: SOUND ADVICE

by Paola C. Messina

SOUND ADVICE
Protect your ears to listen better now and later!
 

Part of loving music and sonic experiences means maintaining a healthy balance when it comes to volume and loudness. Blasting music can be cathartic, but if it damages our hearing in the long-run, it may be best to hold back.

How do we know what is safe for our ears and how can we protect them from permanent damage?

If you’ve been to a live concert, it’s likely you’ve experienced tinnitus (a ringing in your ears). This is almost always accompanied by hearing loss. The cilia (tiny hairs in your cochlea) are damaged by loud sounds and are then unable to communicate certain frequencies to your brain.

The graphic below shows that if the volume (dB level) at a concert is between 110-120, you can begin to experience hearing loss within 5 minutes or even after 1 minute of exposure.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, noise-induced hearing loss occurs with long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels. The damage is gradual, so you might not notice it until later on in life when sounds become distorted or muffled. Extremely loud bursts of sound - from a gunshot or explosion, for example - can rupture your eardrum and damage the bones in the middle ear, causing immediate and permanent damage to hearing.

When you don’t have control over volume, using earplugs is your best bet and there many options - foam, flanged, high-fidelity/musicians earplugs, and even custom-made earplugs. The foam earplugs are the cheapest and easiest to find - readily available at your local pharmacy. If you get a good fit with a foam earplug, you will have a high level of decibel reduction.

The flanged plugs may be easier to achieve a good fit, but they may feel uncomfortable if used over a long period of time.The high-fidelity/musician’s ear plugs and custom-made plugs are usually more expensive, because they can reduce volume but still maintain clarity of the sound.

Learn more about how to protect your hearing and why it’s important at these websites:

 

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E-MAIL PAOLA.MESSINA@CUNY.EDU!

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