How Does Noise Damage Your Hearing?
Remember that sound travels down your ear canal and is converted from an airborne vibration by the middle ear to a wavelike fluid motion in the inner ear. The motion of the fluid in the cochlea (the inner ear) stimulates the hair cells, which send electrical impulses to the brain.
Think of the hair cells in the inner ear like reeds in a pond. On a calm day with the wind blowing lightly, the reeds sway back and forth in the breeze. On a stormy day the wind blows so hard that the reeds in the pond are forced down flat. Depending on the length or severity of the storm, a number of these reeds will gradually return to their normal condition, but others will have been broken and will not recover.
Repeated exposure to loud noise fatigues the hair cells in the inner ear. Just like the reeds, some of these hair cells will return to the normal position, but others will have been damaged beyond the point of recovery. The destruction of these hair cells is evidenced by permanent hearing loss.
Noise induced hearing loss typically occurs gradually and without pain. Often by the time a person realizes that there may be a problem, it may be too late. However, there are early warning signs.
The following symptoms are indications that you should have your hearing tested by a Hearing Health Care Professional:
- A ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in the ear immediately after exposure to noise.
- A slight muffling of sounds after exposure, making it difficult to understand people after you leave a noisy area.
- Difficulty understanding speech; in other words, you can hear all the words, but you can’t understand all of them clearly.