7 ways to maintain your Auditory Youth
Have you ever come out of a place where the music was too loud, to hear your ears buzz?
That’s the sound of your ears protecting themselves.
Take it too far and you might be in for some serious ear damage, and conditions like Tinnitus.
Lets see how we can prevent our ears from such assaults and maintain our auditory youth.
Firstly, lets us identify the warning signs of a failing auditory system:
1) Your ear buzzes and rings on several occasions.
2) You find it difficult to comprehend speech properly.
3) Others have commented that you listen to music, television or the radio at too loud a volume.
4) You have trouble hearing others on the mobile or telephone.
5) Others mention that they think you need to get your ears checked.
The idea is to catch this failing hearing system before it gets too late.
So, what is really happening in our ear when we hear something, and how can this system fail?
The auditory system consists of 3 parts, the outer, middle and inner ear. Sound waves get caught by our ear pinna (the visible part) and get transferred via the auditory canal to our middle and then inner ear.
In the inner ear, the cochlea (the thing that looks like a snail shell) has bundle of fibers called stereocilia. There are hair cells on these stereocilia which vibrate due to the sound waves.
This vibration causes an electro chemical signal to be transmitted to the brain, which is perceived as sound.
In conditions like Tinnitus, there is a breakdown of this system. Though it has not been confirmed how this is actually caused, there are some theories as follows:
1) Hairs cells are broken – causing the brain to think there is always some sound around.
2) The brains noise filtering system itself is damaged – here persons can hear the sound of their own central nervous system.
If you do have this condition, Dr. Alan Mandell has a great technique to Remove Tinnitus, which he explains in his video here:
So, what constitutes loud noise?
As per the Industrial Noise Control,
A whisper is about 20 Decibels (dB for short),
Normal television and radio volumes are about 70 dB,
Food blender (88 dB) garbage disposal (80 dB),
Jet take-off (at 25 meters) is about 150 dB – which can rupture your ear drum.
Usually any sound about 85 dB, should be treated with caution.
How can you measure sound levels, you might ask?
The answer is simple.
There are various mobile apps that measure sound levels as you can see in the picture below.
It comes in handy, especially if you constantly work or live near surroundings with high ambient noise.
However, as prevention is always better than cure, lets see how we can prevent this condition itself.
1) Reduce noise levels, or use noise countermeasures in the work place.
This is assuming you work in a high noise environment:
Research has found that 16% of hearing loss in adults is caused by occupational noise. It was found to be more significant in males than in females, and higher in developed regions.
It is recommended and mandatory in some industries to wear ear protection in high noise areas.
2) Wear ear plugs at music concerts and discos.
Let me say it out loud, “It is not cool to lose your hearing, for want of ear protection”.
Accomplished guitarist and musician Chandresh Kudwa, who is the founder of “The Guitar Thing” (A Guitar Institute), says that he wears ear plugs to all gigs, and even rehearsals. He also ensures that volumes are at a very manageable level in his personal studio. He also told me that many Musicians, as well as many drummers, have lost their hearing and quite a few like Paul Gilbert, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, have Tinnitus.
(Chandresh Kudwa at the Hard Rock Café, Mumbai)
So, if Chandresh being such an renowned musician wears ear plugs to concerts, so should you.
Believe me, that it is no fun, if you cannot hear music a few years down the line.
There is also a good article “10 Musicians You Probably Didn’t Know Are Hearing Impaired“, which might be worth reading.
Ear plugs and noise attenuating earphones are available at places like Amazon (The image is clickable):
3) Play music at low levels:
A study found that about 50% college students are exposed to potentially harmful levels of music, with another 44% using noisy equipment without ear protection. The consequences of this can be very harmful, and will be apparent later on in life, so the line of loud music should be crossed with caution. (3)
4) Do not smoke:
Smoking is known to be one of the causes of hearing loss. Thus at discos you get a double whammy with loud music and smoke. With some countries and clubs going smoke free, this is a welcoming step. So it would be ideal to limit time in discos and bars, thus reducing exposure to second hand smoke.
Studies have found that smokes were 1.69 times more likely to have a hearing loss than nonsmokers. Passive smoking as well upped the risk of hearing loss.(4, 5)
5) Avoid use of cotton bugs for cleaning the ear.
You should not use cotton buds to clean the ears, as they can damage the ear drum or cause the wax to be pushed even further down the auditory canal.
Ear wax should be cleaned with an irrigation system or other means specifically designed for the same, like the one below available at Amazon (The image is clickable):
6) Medication causing hearing loss.
Certain medicines that can cause hearing loss are called ototoxic medicines.
As per WebMD, various medications can be ototoxic as follows:
a) Aspirin in high doses.
b) Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
c) Certain antibiotics.
d) Medicines used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, such as furosemide or bumetanide.
e) Medicines used to treat cancer.
So if you are taking two or more of these tablets, keep a watch for hearing problems and consult your doctor if you find any. (6)
7) Fireworks and crackers.
Fireworks are totally environmentally unfriendly and should be avoided. However if you choose to use them, do so with caution. Research has found that the average sound level at even 3 m distance from fire crackers was 150 dB (That is as good as being 25 m from a jet at take off). So spare your ears and use firecrackers with caution. Close to Deepawali about 2.5% of the target population was found to have a 30 dB hearing loss. (7, 8)
Hearing loss is not a very welcome situation. Tinnitus and some other forms of hearing loss can be prevented or reduced.
A healthy lifestyle and protecting your ears are the main ways you can avoid loss of hearing.
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