Published on 16 October 2021
Wondering if continuous exposure to noise at your workplace or home can affect your hearing? The answer is yes!
Noise is an unavoidable part of our lives, especially in the urban areas. The maddening honking of vehicles when caught in a traffic jam, the blaring loudspeakers and fireworks that herald the start of a festival, and the loud monotonous sounds from machinery at the workplace are only some of the typical noises that we are exposed to day after day. Even our homes are not insulated from noise, with the television screaming out and the blender competing to make itself heard.
Noise can affect structures in the ear associated with hearing
We hear because of a structure deep inside the ear called the cochlea. Signals from the cochlea are carried by a nerve to the brain, where we perceive the sound. Very loud sounds over short durations such as an explosion or slightly lesser sounds over prolonged durations can damage the hair-like structures of the cochlea, or the nerve that transmits the sound. Over time, this can cause mild-to-severe hearing loss.
Hearing Loss may affect Routine Activities
Hearing loss due to noise can limit routine activities and reduce participation in social events. Speech and language development can get affected if the hearing loss occurs at a very young age. The hearing loss could also affect learning. Even in the age of equal opportunities, certain jobs will be difficult for people with hearing disabilities. Hearing loss in the elderly could have grave consequences, since they may not be able to hear an alarm bell or the honking of a car while crossing the road.
Avoid Loud Noises whenever Possible
- Limit exposure to recreational sounds from personal entertainment devices such as the mobile phone or the tablet. When earphones are used, the volume should be adjusted in a quiet room, and the temptation to increase it in a noisier place should be avoided. Frequent breaks should be taken from the earphones, even if the sound is not loud, to avoid continuous exposure and subsequent hearing loss.
- It is advisable not to gift noisy toys to small children. A toy gun or a musical toy with a loud volume may appear fascinating to children, but it can affect hearing following repeated use.
- If the loud sound is due to blaring music through loudspeakers or fireworks, it is better to move out of the place. If moving out is not an option, devices like earmuffs or ear plugs could be useful. These could also be used in movie theatres to reduce the impact of the sound on the ears.
Harrison RV. The Prevention of Noise Induced Hearing Loss in Children. Int J Pediatr. 2012; 2012: 473541.
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