Listening to music can be an enjoyable experience that often helps us complete our daily tasks and routines. However, one must consider some of the risks that we are exposed to as we listen to our favorite tunes.
How It All Works Basic Process of Human Hearing
When we are exposed to a noise the sound travels down the ear canal. When the sound waves hit the eardrum in the middle ear, the eardrum starts to vibrate.
When the eardrum vibrates, it moves three tiny bones in your ear. These bones are called the hammer (or malleus), anvil (or incus), and stirrup (or stapes). They help sound move along on its journey into the inner ear.
The vibrations then travel to the cochlea, which is filled with liquid and lined with cells that have thousands of tiny hairs on their surfaces. There are two types of hair cells: the outer and inner cells.
The sound vibrations make the tiny hairs move. The outer hair cells take the sound information, amplify it (make it louder), and tune it. The inner hair cells send the sound information to your hearing nerve, which then sends it to your brain, allowing you to hear
Now that we understand how hearing works let’s discuss how loud music can impact it.
While listening to music, the tiny hairs on the innermost part of the cochlea sway back and forth in fluid as the sound waves hit our eardrums.
However, if the sound is too loud, these hairs sway too far and can get damaged. This results in damage to the hearing and could also lead to hearing loss.
The hairs of the cochlea are responsible for sound clarity. Once these hairs are damaged they do not grow back.
A decibel is a unit of measurement used to indicate how loud a sound is. Continuous exposure to sound above 80 decibels could be harmful.
Relating to Everyday Life Decibel levels of common sounds 60 db Every day conversation, ringing telephone 70 db A restaurant 80 db Heavy city traffic, alarm clock at 2 ft. away, factory noise, vacuum cleaner, garbage disposal 90 db Subway trains, motorcycle, lawnmower 100 db Chainsaw, drill 110 db Dance Club 120 db Rock concert speaker sound, sandblasting, thunderclap 130 db Jet take off, gunfire 150 db Rock music peak
Keep in mind the decibel levels of common sounds found on the previous chart. Audiologists have known students to listen to music at 110 to 120 decibels. Exposure to this level of sound is enough to cause hearing loss after only about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Headphones usually allow us to listen to music at higher volume than loud speakers. Scientists have measured sound levels of MP3 players. At 70 percent of volume they pump out 85 decibels. Pairing both of these could spell danger for a person who uses headphones to listen to a portable music device.
While hearing damage from excessive noise exposure is not always permanent be aware, over time permanent hearing loss can occur.
Hearing damage can be gradual, cumulative and without obvious warning signs. However, signs of exposure to excessive sound include ringing in the ears, hissing, clicking, or buzzing sounds. These sounds are also common of tinnitus. While in many cases the tinnitus ringing may not be serious; it could be quite annoying to hear constant ringing in your ears.
Combining normal hearing depreciation that occurs with age, exposure to high volume on headphones could accelerate hearing loss.
We often turn up our headphones to drown out the sounds around us. With noise cancellation headphones you are able to enjoy your music while not having to turn up the volume excessively. This allows you to listen to your music at lower decibel levels therefore you can listen to your music longer than with regular headphones or earbuds.
These headphones also provide better clarity and sound quality. Additionally they tend to be more comfortable on the ears.
If Noise Cancellation Headphones are so great, why caution its use?
It is important to be aware of your surroundings
If you are walking alone you should consider removing your headphones or turning the volume low so that you can hear. You don’t want to be a target for a crime!
You should also consider removing your headphones or turning the volume low if you are walking in a heavy traffic area or one that may contain heavy machinery. This is important so that you hear sirens, horns, or anything meant to warn you.