Hearing loss may start at an early age specially if you listen to loud music for long periods of time using a personal music player or if you regularly go to nightclubs or concerts where the music is loud. The effects of loud noise accumulate over time and it’s not until years later that you will notice the damage.
Not everyone is effected by loud noise in the same way because we don’t all hear sounds the same. There are signs that tell you if you have been exposed to loud noise. The chief one is ringing in your ears. This is called tinnitus. It may only last a two or three hours or it may last longer, but further exposure may make it permanent.
Another sign of damage is where sounds may seem dull for a time after exposure. This is called a ‘temporary threshold shift’ and you should recover in one to two days. If your hearing does not get back to normal after two days, you may experience a ‘permanent threshold shift’. In this case your hearing may be permanently damaged. These ‘shifts’ are called sensorineural hearing loss. This is where hair cells in the Cochlea, which is located in the inner ear, are damaged. These hair cells do not repair themselves and the effect of that is important.
One result of sensorineural hearing loss is known as ‘recruitment’. The chief effect of this is not being able to hear speech in a noisy room. Other effects of ‘recruitment’ include not being able to hear quiet sounds, but loud sounds are too loud, and when people talk to you they sound like they’re mumbling and you have to ask them to repeat what they said. A hearing test may be necessary to determine if the damage is permanent or not.
Hearing tests apply certain sounds at different points in your hearing range and you indicate which ones you are able to hear. A typical pattern for someone with hearing loss will show a dip in hearing in the middle to high range. For comparison, these are the sounds made by the 82nd to 88th notes on a piano keyboard. If you’re continually exposed to loud noise, the dip will stretch into the lower and higher ranges of your hearing. This is not good news as you get older.
The older you are the worst your hearing gets. This is called presbycusis and it gets worse after the age of 55. If you were exposed to loud noise when you were younger, it will cause the presbycusis to seem worst than normal. There is no cure for presbycusis so you need to protect your hearing.
To help protect your hearing when going to nightclubs or loud concerts use earplugs. Men and women who work in these places and even the band members use earplugs. They have to because there are rules that make them do it. In addition, when you listen to your personal music player, turn the volume down to about 60% of maximum and don’t listen for too long. Keep in mind that you will not notice the damage at the time. It may take years before it’s effects are heard.