Safeguarding Our Hearing

Did you realize that approximately 36 million Americans currently experience some level of hearing loss?   Additionally, did you know that one in three of those 36 million has been caused as a result of exposure to excessive noise?  The sad thing about these statistics is that this type of hearing loss is completely preventable with hearing protection!

We are conscious about taking good care of our heart, lungs, liver etc., but don’t forget that our ears are organs as well and we must also take good care of them.  The components within our ears are actually very delicate, and the process in which we are able to hear is quite complex. 

Let’s break it down into its simplest form; Sound waves first hit your eardrum, a stretched membrane like the skin of a drum, which causes it to vibrate.  This sets off a chain reaction.  The vibrations from the eardrum hit the three smallest bones in your body, the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup.  The stirrup passes those vibrations along a coiled tube in the inner ear called the cochlea.  The cochlea is lined with thousands of tiny hairs called cilia which move as the cochlea vibrates.  Then the auditory nerve sends the signal from the cilia to the brain and it is translated as sound.

Noise induced hearing loss happens when the delicate cilia are damaged.  If sound enters your ears at over 85 decibels (dB) for an extended period of time or over 100 dB for even a short time, the vibrations reaching the cilia are so intense that they damage the cilia and unfortunately the damage is irreversible.  When too many of these delicate hairs are broken, then permanent hearing loss occurs.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution to noise induced hearing loss;  wearing proper ear protection when we are going to be exposed to excessive noise will protect the cilia from any damage.  Earplugs, earmuffs and even custom hearing protection devices are all readily available and most are even sold over the counter.  If you are exposed to loud noises on a daily basis you might want to check with an audiologist to have a custom set of ear plugs made that will fit your ears perfectly and provide superior protection.

Hearing is one of our most vital senses and we want to make sure we preserve it as much as possible.  Don’t just assume that you will be fine being around loud noises; your hearing can be compromised quicker than you think.  Purchase a pair of earplugs or earmuffs and keep them on hand to use if you find yourself in an excessively noisy situation.  Protecting your hearing today will make for a sound future.


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