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The ear, the pathway to 
sound, and the protection 
of hearing 
Samford University 
Music Department 
Margaret L. Johnson ...
What is Sound? 
• ... a sound is any disturbance of air 
that could cause a displacement of 
the eardrum which, after 
tra...
How sound travels 
• “The source of sound causes 
movements of the air particles in its 
immediate neighborhood; these 
mo...
Just another sound: the human 
voice 
• voice: fluctuations of air pressure > caused by 
rapid opening and closing of voca...
The Path of Sound 
• external canal 
• vibrates eardrum 
• vibration moves through 
ossicles 
– mallet (malleus), anvil 
(...
The Ear 
• outer ear 
– protection 
– transmission of sound 
• middle ear 
– transformation into and 
transmission of mech...
The Outer Ear 
• Pinna / auricle 
– protects the entrance to the ear canal 
– contributes to our ability to locate 
sounds...
The Middle Ear 
• the ossicles pick up the 
mechanical movement of the 
eardrum and convey it to the 
inner ear/oval windo...
The Middle Ear Cont‘d 
• Eustachian tube: 
– narrow tube connecting pharynx 
and middle ear 
– equalizes air pressure diff...
Damage to the middle ear 
• Loud impulse noises can perforate the 
eardrum, dislodge the 3 tiny bones in the 
ear 
• This ...
The Inner Ear 
• cochlea 
– coil-like structure terminating 
in a window with a flexible 
membrane at each end 
– internal...
The Inner Ear Cont‘d 
• Organ of Corti: 
– attached along the basilar 
membrane 
– hair cells which get moved 
and excited...
The Inner Ear Cont‘d -Hair Cells 
• ~16,000 in each cochlea 
– located on the basilar membrane 
– do not regenerate 
– inn...
Damage to the Inner Ear 
• When excessively loud noises enter the inner ear, permanent 
sensorineural hearing loss can occ...
The Auditory Nerve 
• Auditory nerve: 
– picks up the neural signals from the organ 
of Corti 
– sends signals to the brai...
Noise Exposure 
• Any kind of sound is 
known as “noise” 
• Prolonged exposure 
to any sound/noise 
over 85 dB can cause 
...
What do we know? 
• Acute hearing and perception are essential for 
all musicians 
• Noise induced hearing loss is prevent...
What are the variables? 
• Sound level variation 
• Performance and rehearsal settings 
• Distance from sound 
• Length of...
Solo vs. Ensemble(s) 
• Obviously, the solo performer has the 
advantage over ensemble 
• Ensemble practice (whether vocal...
Sound level measurement 
• Sound level meters 
• Dosimeters 
• Range in price from $20.00 to $2000
Ear Protection 
• Earplugs 
• Earmuffs 
• Acoustical sound shields 
• All of these can be made specifically for 
musicians
How do I protect myself? 
• Avoid noisy/loud situations for prolonged periods of time 
• Stay away from noisy activities u...
Vocal Health for musicians 
Samford University 
February, 2014
The vocal tract 
• Larynx – where the vocal 
folds are located 
• Pharynx – 3 portions 
– Laryngopharynx 
– Oropharynx 
– ...
Vocal folds vs. cords 
• Folds is the more appropriate term 
• Vocal cords came from the thinking that these 
layers of ti...
Terms to be aware of 
• Phonation – the act of voicing 
• Dysphonia – poor vocal quality; “breathy, 
hoarse, raspy” 
• Muc...
Abduction & adduction 
• Abduction – movement away from the center 
– the folds are abducted when we are 
breathing and no...
Vocal fold vibration and pitch 
Slow vibratory 
pattern 
Rapid vibratory 
pattern 
494 
The term for vibration, or cycles,...
Men vs. women in pitch and cycles 
per second 
• Men = average of 115 
Hz per second 
• Women = average of 
200 Hz per sec...
Causes of vocal injury or illness 
The following list is not inclusive of all things that can cause vocal issues, 
but rat...
Causes of vocal injury/illness 
• Vocal overuse (can have the same effects as 
vocal abuse by the general “wear and tear” ...
Nodules 
• Nodules (also called “nodes”): A common injury that 
is essentially a small growth found on one or more 
common...
Polyps 
• Polyps are like nodules in that they are also a growth on the folds 
that keep the folds from closing, but are m...
Hemorrhage 
• A hemorrhage is where a blood vessel 
“explodes” due to excessive pressure; (think 
extended overuse)
Laryngitis 
• Laryngitis is the inflammation of the vocal folds 
• It may be the result of reactions to allergies, bacteri...
Treatment 
• For treatment of nodules, polyps, laryngitis, hemorrhaging: A 
DOCTOR should be consulted! 
• In general, tot...
Acid Reflux as irritant 
• Reflux (backflow of stomach acid) can cause significant irritation, 
burning or swelling on voc...
More on Reflux 
• Reflux is best treated by a gastroenterologist; The GI may also 
refer you to an ENT 
• Preventing reflu...
Keys to vocal health 
• The larynx is very much a finely tuned musical instrument 
and should be taken care of like a fine...
More on hydration… 
• The body should produce about 1 liter of 
mucous a day! However, it needs lots of 
water to do so; i...
Vocal health 
• Try not to sing forcefully or for long periods of 
time; let your choral director know if you are 
experie...
Vocal health 
• Warm up! The larynx should get increased blood flow and 
stretching before singing; it is also a good idea...
Bodily Health: 
Exercise is key component! 
• Exercise: Frequent exercise can 
help promote a strong circulatory 
system, ...
Vocal health cont’d… 
• When talking on the phone, hold 
the phone with your hand, not with your shoulder as the 
position...
More on vocal health… 
• Smoking can cause dramatic changes to 
the tissues in and around the vocal folds 
and is the prim...
Summary 
• The voice is a wonderful instrument; man has made 
nothing like it! Singing is a great privilege and the 
vocal...
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Protecting your Hearing

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Slide presentation by Margaret Johnson to Samford students on the importance of protecting your hearing.

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Protecting your Hearing

  1. 1. The ear, the pathway to sound, and the protection of hearing Samford University Music Department Margaret L. Johnson February, 2014
  2. 2. What is Sound? • ... a sound is any disturbance of air that could cause a displacement of the eardrum which, after transmission by the bone chain, could affect the liquid in the inner ear in such a way that the auditory nerves are stimulated.” – “Ladefoged, Elements of Acoustic Phonetics, pp. 2-3”
  3. 3. How sound travels • “The source of sound causes movements of the air particles in its immediate neighborhood; these movements cause disturbances in the air a little farther away from the source; these air particles in their turn affect their neighbors which are still farther away from the source; and so the disturbance spreads outward.”
  4. 4. Just another sound: the human voice • voice: fluctuations of air pressure > caused by rapid opening and closing of vocal folds • pressure rises to a maximum, then falls steadily to a minimum before rising again to repeat the cycle, all within a small fraction of a second
  5. 5. The Path of Sound • external canal • vibrates eardrum • vibration moves through ossicles – mallet (malleus), anvil (incus), stirrup (stapes) • stapes vibrates oval window of cochlea • creates pressure wave in the fluid inside
  6. 6. The Ear • outer ear – protection – transmission of sound • middle ear – transformation into and transmission of mechanic vibrations • inner ear – transformation of vibrations into neural impulses
  7. 7. The Outer Ear • Pinna / auricle – protects the entrance to the ear canal – contributes to our ability to locate sounds, esp. at higher frequencies • Meatus/outer ear canal – pathway for the acoustic signal – protection of the inner ear – tube resonator, i.e. favors transmission of high-frequency sounds (2000-4000 Hz) and generally between 500 and 4000 Hz
  8. 8. The Middle Ear • the ossicles pick up the mechanical movement of the eardrum and convey it to the inner ear/oval window • transformation of air pressure variation into equivalent mechanical movements • contraction between anvil and stirrup can reduce amplitude (protection for inner ear)
  9. 9. The Middle Ear Cont‘d • Eustachian tube: – narrow tube connecting pharynx and middle ear – equalizes air pressure differences between outer and middle ear – Oval window: – interface between middle and inner ear – transmits mechanical movement
  10. 10. Damage to the middle ear • Loud impulse noises can perforate the eardrum, dislodge the 3 tiny bones in the ear • This can cause what we know as a conductive hearing loss; with some cases, the hearing loss can be repaired
  11. 11. The Inner Ear • cochlea – coil-like structure terminating in a window with a flexible membrane at each end – internally divided by two membranes, filled with cochlear fluid – converts mechanical movements into neural signals
  12. 12. The Inner Ear Cont‘d • Organ of Corti: – attached along the basilar membrane – hair cells which get moved and excited – responsible to transform membrane displacement into neural signals – 1. inner hair cells – 2. outer hair cells – 3. tunnel of Corti – 4. basilar membrane
  13. 13. The Inner Ear Cont‘d -Hair Cells • ~16,000 in each cochlea – located on the basilar membrane – do not regenerate – inner (~ 3,500) hair cells vs. outer hair cells (~ 20,000) – stimulated by bending of the basilar membrane (length of wave on the basilar membrane depends on frequency of sound – amplitude • lower & medium amplitudes affect outer hair cells, • higher amplitudes affect inner hair cells
  14. 14. Damage to the Inner Ear • When excessively loud noises enter the inner ear, permanent sensorineural hearing loss can occur • A sensorineural loss is one where the ability to transmit sound to the brain in order for the sound to be understood is damaged in some manner • Severity of the hearing loss depends on how many of the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged • These hair cells do not regenerate and cannot be repaired.
  15. 15. The Auditory Nerve • Auditory nerve: – picks up the neural signals from the organ of Corti – sends signals to the brain where the information is processed and interpreted
  16. 16. Noise Exposure • Any kind of sound is known as “noise” • Prolonged exposure to any sound/noise over 85 dB can cause irreversible hearing loss • 30 dB = whisper • 50 dB – moderate rain • 60 dB = average conversation • 70 dB = freeway traffic • 80 dB = Alarm Clock (bells) • 90 dB = Blender, blow dryer, a subway • 100 dB = MP3 players at full volume; lawnmowers • 110 dB = Rock concerts, sporting events, power tools • 120 dB = jet planes taking off • 130 dB = sirens, race cars, jackhammers • 140 dB = guns, fireworks
  17. 17. What do we know? • Acute hearing and perception are essential for all musicians • Noise induced hearing loss is preventable • Musicians have a personal responsibility to protect their hearing • Sound level management is critical
  18. 18. What are the variables? • Sound level variation • Performance and rehearsal settings • Distance from sound • Length of exposure
  19. 19. Solo vs. Ensemble(s) • Obviously, the solo performer has the advantage over ensemble • Ensemble practice (whether vocally or instrumentally) can average greater than the preferred 85dB. • The key to solving this problem is measurement of sound
  20. 20. Sound level measurement • Sound level meters • Dosimeters • Range in price from $20.00 to $2000
  21. 21. Ear Protection • Earplugs • Earmuffs • Acoustical sound shields • All of these can be made specifically for musicians
  22. 22. How do I protect myself? • Avoid noisy/loud situations for prolonged periods of time • Stay away from noisy activities unless you are well protected • Maintain your distance from noise • When using in the ear earphones, make sure that the levels are safe • Attend to your noise exposure throughout the day • Take a break from noisy environments
  23. 23. Vocal Health for musicians Samford University February, 2014
  24. 24. The vocal tract • Larynx – where the vocal folds are located • Pharynx – 3 portions – Laryngopharynx – Oropharynx – Nasopharynx • Trachea – pathway to lungs • Spinal Column – support • Diaphragm – respiratory support
  25. 25. Vocal folds vs. cords • Folds is the more appropriate term • Vocal cords came from the thinking that these layers of tissue were stretched across the trachea, like strings on a piano • Now we know that these are multilayered folds of tissue that are continuous with other tissues in the pharyngeal cavity
  26. 26. Terms to be aware of • Phonation – the act of voicing • Dysphonia – poor vocal quality; “breathy, hoarse, raspy” • Mucosa – the tissue that lines the entire inside of our oral and pharyngeal cavity. It is soft and wet, and prefers to stay that way
  27. 27. Abduction & adduction • Abduction – movement away from the center – the folds are abducted when we are breathing and not talking • Adduction – movement toward the center – the folds are adducted when they are together and are creating voice; even when we whisper, our vocal folds are adducting
  28. 28. Vocal fold vibration and pitch Slow vibratory pattern Rapid vibratory pattern 494 The term for vibration, or cycles, per second is Hertz (Hz)
  29. 29. Men vs. women in pitch and cycles per second • Men = average of 115 Hz per second • Women = average of 200 Hz per second • Sopranos = 246.9 Hz • Mezzo-Soprano = 196 Hz • Contralto = 174.6 Hz • Tenor = 164.8 Hz • Baritone = 123.5 Hz • Bass = 98.0 Hz
  30. 30. Causes of vocal injury or illness The following list is not inclusive of all things that can cause vocal issues, but rather a general list of “frequent offenders” • Vocal abuse: (can result in nodules, polyps, hemorrhaging, general irritation and laryngitis) – Yelling, screaming, hollering (especially cheerleading– a common source of adolescent vocal problems) – Forceful singing; extended singing – Throat clearing and coughing – Loud talking (especially in loud settings like sporting events, restaurants, parties, etc.) – Whispering! This can put great strain on the larynx
  31. 31. Causes of vocal injury/illness • Vocal overuse (can have the same effects as vocal abuse by the general “wear and tear” of the vocal folds) – Singing for too long (this can especially occur during long rehearsals like choral festivals) – Talking for too long (cell phones - especially while in the car, reunions, visiting with friends late at night, etc…) ** low-pitched talking can be especially detrimental
  32. 32. Nodules • Nodules (also called “nodes”): A common injury that is essentially a small growth found on one or more commonly, both of the folds (nodules are much like a callus on the hand or foot); Nodules keep the folds from fully closing, resulting in a harsh/breathy voice
  33. 33. Polyps • Polyps are like nodules in that they are also a growth on the folds that keep the folds from closing, but are more like a soft lesion than a hard callus • Polyps may be on either just one fold or both (typically on just one side); both abusive phonation and smoking are common reasons for polyps
  34. 34. Hemorrhage • A hemorrhage is where a blood vessel “explodes” due to excessive pressure; (think extended overuse)
  35. 35. Laryngitis • Laryngitis is the inflammation of the vocal folds • It may be the result of reactions to allergies, bacterial or fungal infections, or the result of vocal overuse • With laryngitis, the vocal folds often swell too much to correctly close, resulting in the lack of phonation (dysphonia)
  36. 36. Treatment • For treatment of nodules, polyps, laryngitis, hemorrhaging: A DOCTOR should be consulted! • In general, total vocal rest (NO talking, singing or whispering for an extended period) is the first line of defense, and in some cases, can help cure some of the above conditions; increased hydration may also be beneficial; in general, resting the voice is important whenever it feels strained or if the sound is not normal • Surgery may be required in some cases
  37. 37. Acid Reflux as irritant • Reflux (backflow of stomach acid) can cause significant irritation, burning or swelling on vocal folds/larynx; Two types: – “GERD”: Gastroesophageal reflux disorder– is when acid backflows into esophagus (food pipe) • Symptoms: Heartburn, regurgitation; occurs while laying down – “LPR”: Laryngopharyngeal reflux– is when acid backflows into larynx/pharynx • Symptoms: Too much mucous in throat, need to clear throat often, sour taste in mouth, hoarse voice, feeling of a “lump” in the throat
  38. 38. More on Reflux • Reflux is best treated by a gastroenterologist; The GI may also refer you to an ENT • Preventing reflux from occurring is the best medicine; the following can help to do so: – Diet: avoid very spicy foods, alcohol/caffeine (both rob body of moisture), highly acidic foods (citrus fruits and tomatoes), carbonated drinks, chocolate, dairy products, fatty foods – Eat at least 3 hours prior to going to bed – Exercise/lose weight (if overweight)
  39. 39. Keys to vocal health • The larynx is very much a finely tuned musical instrument and should be taken care of like a fine violin (plus, the vocal folds can NEVER be replaced!) • Hydration is key! Water is the best fluid for the body. Try to drink at least 64 oz. a day (about ½ gallon) the vocal cords need constant lubrication while singing
  40. 40. More on hydration… • The body should produce about 1 liter of mucous a day! However, it needs lots of water to do so; in order to keep the mucous “thin”, much water is needed • Foods like grapes, melons, cucumbers have a lot of water and are quite beneficial • Alcohol, caffeine, smoking and antihistamines all dry the body/vocal folds • A humidifier in dry areas or your bedroom may also be beneficial
  41. 41. Vocal health • Try not to sing forcefully or for long periods of time; let your choral director know if you are experiencing vocal fatigue • Try to avoid singing hard glottal attacks (where the voice is initiated quickly with force– as on words like “Go”); this can be helped by beginning the breath/airflow before the pitch is phonated– especially on vowels
  42. 42. Vocal health • Warm up! The larynx should get increased blood flow and stretching before singing; it is also a good idea to cool down gently after long/taxing rehearsals • Light, downward glides are some of best “first” warm up exercises (go from stretched cords to relaxed) • Lip buzz/lip trills • There are 3 groups of muscles that are involved: – (1) Breathing muscles – (2) Phonation muscles – (3) Pitch Change Muscles
  43. 43. Bodily Health: Exercise is key component! • Exercise: Frequent exercise can help promote a strong circulatory system, efficient lungs and good immunity toward sickness • Try to get 8 hours of sleep! • Don’t grunt when lifting weights! It creates dramatic pressure against the folds
  44. 44. Vocal health cont’d… • When talking on the phone, hold the phone with your hand, not with your shoulder as the position can put a lot of strain on the larynx and neck muscles • The singing voice should last for hours without much discomfort; if hoarseness, discomfort or lack of range/phonation occur, it is an indication of a problem with the voice, or an issue with singing technique
  45. 45. More on vocal health… • Smoking can cause dramatic changes to the tissues in and around the vocal folds and is the primary cause of laryngeal cancer; • It robs the vocal folds of full flexibility because of it’s drying effects. Singers should not be smokers.
  46. 46. Summary • The voice is a wonderful instrument; man has made nothing like it! Singing is a great privilege and the vocal folds should be treated with care and protection • The tips in this presentation can help you maintain your voice for years to come, but in the event of any vocal problem, the advice of a doctor/laryngologist is the most important action you can take

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