Recent studies show an alarming increase in hearing loss in youngsters. Evidence suggests that loud music along with increased use of personal music players with earphones may be responsible for this phenomenon.
One in 10 Americans has a hearing loss that affects his or her ability to understand normal speech. Excessive noise exposure is the most common cause of hearing loss.
Can Noise Really Hurt My Ears?
Yes, noise can be dangerous. If it is loud enough and lasts long enough, it can damage your hearing.
The damage caused by noise, called sensorineural hearing loss or nerve deafness, can be caused by several factors other than noise, but noise-induced hearing loss is different in one important way, it can be reduced or prevented altogether.
Can I “Toughen Up” My Ears?
No. If you think you have grown used to a loud noise, it probably has damaged your ears, and there is no treatment–no medicine, no surgery, not even a hearing aid–that completely restores your hearing once it is damaged by noise.
How Does the Ear Work?
The ear has three main parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear (the part you can see) opens into the ear canal. The eardrum separates the ear canal from the middle ear. Small bones in the middle ear help transfer sound to the inner ear. The inner ear contains the auditory (hearing) nerve, which leads to the brain.
Any source of sound sends vibrations or sound waves into the air. These funnel through the ear opening, down the ear canal, and strike your eardrum, causing it to vibrate. The vibrations are passed to the small bones of the middle ear, which transmit them to the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Here, the vibrations become nerve impulses and go directly to the brain, which interprets the impulses as sound: music, a slamming door, a voice, etc.
When noise is too loud, it begins to kill the nerve endings in the inner ear. As the exposure time to loud noise increases, more and more nerve endings are destroyed. As the number of nerve endings decreases, so does your hearing. There is no way to restore life to dead nerve endings; the damage is permanent.