Every source of sound produces vibrations that cause sound waves in the air.
These are “funnelled” into the ear through the auditory canal to reach the eardrum, making it vibrate. These vibrations travel through delicate ossicles in the middle ear, which redirect the vibrations to the inner ear. There, hair cells convert them into an electrical signal that is sent to the brain.
The brain perceives this as sound: music, a voice, a door closing, etcetera. Sounds that are too loud can cause the hair cells in the inner ear to become overloaded and die. The longer the exposure and/or the more the noise increases, the more hair cells will die. As the number of hair cells decreases, so does the ability to hear. Dead hair cells cannot be brought back to life, which means that this damage is irreversible!
How can you tell whether your hearing has been damaged?
Hearing loss generally develops over a period of years. Because it takes place painlessly and gradually, people hardly notice it is happening.
Signs of damage are: when noise is painful, when one’s ears ring or buzz, or when one gradually starts hearing everything more quietly, such as following exposure to a loud bang or after a concert.
Noise damage has nothing to do with age: it can occur at any time. The first signs of hearing impairment are when people start having trouble hearing what others are saying, especially where several people are gathered in noisy surroundings. It becomes even more serious if one starts hearing a “continuous whistling noise” in the ear. This is called tinnitus and can be a sign of more serious hearing loss. But a reduced ability to hear can also be caused by a build-up of ear wax or an ear infection that can be cleared up easily. It is a good idea to consult a doctor if these symptoms occur in order to avoid taking unnecessary risks.
Can ears be trained?
No. Anyone who thinks they can get used to loud noises is probably already suffering hearing damage. And there is NO treatment for this – NO medicine – NO operation. Even a hearing aid cannot fully restore diminished hearing.
How can I prevent damage to my hearing?
Always wear hearing protection when you are in or need to be in a noisy environment!
Hearing protection reduces noise intensity and thus lowers the risk of damage to your hearing. There are many different types of hearing protection and it is very important that you choose the right one.
Whatever you choose, the best hearing protection is the one you actually wear.