Hearing is an unusual sense. Using it can damage it. We were always told if you look at the sun or sit too close to the television you can damage your eyes. Touching a hot stove can damage nerve endings in your fingers. However, looking directly at the sun is a rarity. The television may cause eye strain but not actual vision damage. The hot stove will teach us a lesson, but rarely occurs. These are all unpleasant experiences. Unfortunately, listening to loud sounds that may be perfectly enjoyable can cause permanent damage to the ears.

woman covering both of her ears

Studies have shown that exposure to loud sounds can damage the “outer hair cells” of the inner ear. These cells have projections that look hairy under a microscope. They act as amplifiers for soft sounds. When they are damaged, sounds need to be louder for us to detect them. This is the essence of typical hearing loss caused by loudness, aging, or toxicity. It is not deafness; sounds can be heard, but they require extra volume.

Severely loud sounds can destroy “inner hair cells,” which are the actual receptors for hearing. This damage leads to major hearing deficits. Inner ear damage is irreversible, no matter which cells are affected. It is therefore important we know how to protect what we have.

At the workplace, OSHA and NIOSH have laid out guidelines to control our exposure to damaging noise levels. If your job requires ear plugs or earmuffs, wear them. Even a modest decrease in sound levels can increase the allowable exposure time before damage begins.

Any kind of firearms use should include hearing protection. Solid plugs, muff-style attenuators, or electronic “shooters’ plugs” should be worn at all times.

Musicians, amateur and professional alike, can use high fidelity ear plugs. These have special filters that allow the music to sound natural at safer levels. Also, in-ear-monitors can allow musicians to hear themselves well without excessive volume. Also, give your ears a break whenever possible. Step away from loudness when you can.

Always seek the hearing protection most appropriate for your activity. If you are not sure, ask our staff of experts at Clear Choice Hearing and Balance. We can guide you in the right direction. Give us a call today to schedule a diagnostic hearing evaluation. We can be reached by calling 585-723-3440 or emailing us through our contact form. You only get one set of ears - treat them like gold. As always, we wish to keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.