“My drumming magazine said this is a quick way to check the loudness of a rock concert. If we still are able lo hear and understand the words on the radio after we’ve been to a concert, then the music wasn’t too loud,” Rick explained.
After the concert, Rick turned on the car radio, but the teens couldn’t hear anything. “That music gave us a short-term hearing loss.”
Jeff shrugged. “One rock concert can’t hurt.”
“The magazine said if you listen to loud music a lot, you could develop a permanent hearing problem.” Rick turned off the radio.
Hazardous at Any Age
Are rock concerts hazardous? What about listening to a portable CD player with headphones, or driving behind a car with a noisy muffler? You may not even think of them as being loud, but these things can damage your hearing.
Noise pollution is the leading single cause of hearing loss in the United States. No matter where you live, the noise in your environment affects you, whether it’s from farm tractors or from city street noise. Ten million Americans suffer from noise-caused hearing problems that range from steady ringing in the ears to total deafness.
Hearing loss doesn’t occur only in older people. Hearing specialists called audiologists are fitting more end more young people with hearing aids. They blame this increase, in part, on listening to loud music and using headphones.
At first, a hearing loss may be temporary. Jeff’s and Rick’s hearing will return to normal after several hours or days. If exposure continues, though, their ears will-eventually Iose their ability to bounce back.
Sounds are actually vibrations traveling through air. The vibrations are caused by changes in air pressure. Pressure changes create waves, and the bigger the pressure changes, the louder the sound.
The outer ear, the part you can see, funnels vibrations to your middle and inner ear. Inside the inner ear are tiny, hairlike nerve endings that sense the vibrations and change them into nerve impulses, a kind of electrical signal. The signals are sent to the brain, and that’s where we “hear” sounds.
If Jeff continues to listen to loud music, he’ll destroy inner ear nerve hairs and nerve endings He won’t know this, because the nerve endings don’t send pain signals. Jeff’s temporary hearing loss may quickly become permanent.
The first signs of hearing loss may be tinnitus, a ringing or other sound in the ear, or people sounding as if they’re mumbling. Usually, high frequencies are lost first, so people may have trouble hearing high-pitched voices or high-frequency sounds likes, z, ski, and zh.
Other Health Effects
Noise has other effects on health and growth. These effects are usually not life-threatening or obvious: higher blood pressure, increased stress, and reduced teaming ability. Researchers also have found that excessive noise may increase the risk of heart disease.
Other studies show that noise can take a mental toll. Students whose schools were in noisy areas scored lower on tests than children in quieter schools. For example, children near the Los Angeles airport were quicker to give up trying to solve puzzles and problems and had higher blood pressure than students in a comparable school in a quiet area. Studies also find that noise can make people feel irritable, aggressive, tired, and unable to concentrate.
Staying Tuned In
Exposure to loud levels of noise can’t be avoided, but you can do things to prevent damage. Pay attention to how loud and how long you are exposed to noise. Eight hours of working near noisy machinery can damage hearing just as easily es two hours at a much louder heavy metal concert.
Other danger signs include not being able to hear someone two feet away talk in a normal voice. Or having to raise your own voice or shout to be heard over the noise. A ringing sensation or pain in your ears is also a warning.
A useful tip: If someone nearby can hear what’s on your headphones, the sound Is too loud. Turn it down.
When noise Is unavoidable, wear ear protection. Don’t stuff cotton or tissue in your ears, though. These materials are porous and won’t protect your hearing.
If you spend time or work in a noisy environment, use snugly fitted earplugs to provide 15 to 30 dBs of noise protection. You can buy them at most drugstores, music stores, and speech-and-hearirrg centers. Many rock musicians wear earplugs to protect themselves from their own music.
Noise pollution affects hearing, stress levels, and concentration. It can be-and is-hazardous to your health.