Rapid hearing loss can occur from acoustic trauma and result in permanent cochlea damage by excessive noise levels from sources such as gunfire or explosions. Otherwise, hearing loss is gradual and is basically a long term infringement upon the guidelines that have been set by various health associations. A variety of activities that expose a person to high levels of noise over a long period of time will lead to gradual hearing loss.
In order to prevent the hearing loss that results from modern living, it is important to be aware of the intricacies of how that damage is done. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when too much sound intensity is transmitted into and through the auditory system. An acoustic signal from the source enters into the external auditory canal, and is funneled through to the tympanic membrane.
The tympanic membrane acts as an elastic diaphragm and drives the ossicular chain of the middle ear system into motion. Then the middle ear ossicles transfer mechanical energy to the cochlea by way of the stapes footplate hammering against the oval window of the cochlea. This hammering causes the fluid within the cochlea to push against the stereocilia of the hair cells, which then transmit a signal to the central auditory system within the brain. When the ear is exposed to excessive sound levels or loud sounds over time, the over-stimulation of the hair cells leads to heavy production of reactive oxygen species, leading to cell death.
Prevention of hearing loss can easily be achieved through the use of some of the most simple, widely available and economical tools. This includes but is not limited to ear protection such as earplugs, education, and hearing conservation programs.
Earplugs can provide the wearer with at least 5 to 10 decibels of sound reduction. In a survey examining high school students’ attitudes and knowledge concerning hearing safety, 66% of the subjects reported a positive response to wearing hearing protection devices if educated about noise-induced hearing loss. Unfortunately, more often than not, individuals will avoid the use of ear protection due to embarrassment, lack of comfort, and reduced sound quality.
For people living with noise-induced hearing loss, there are several management options that can improve the ability to hear and effectively communicate. Management programs for people with hearing loss include counseling and the use of hearing aids and FM systems. With proper amplification and counseling, the prognosis is excellent for people with noise-induced hearing loss.
The prognosis continues to improve with the recent advancements in digital hearing aid technology, such as directional microphones, open-fit hearing aids, and more advanced algorithms. Annual audiological evaluations are recommended to monitor any changes in a patient’s hearing and to modify hearing-aid prescriptions.
Emerging research and clinical evidence is mounting that a deficiency of the hormone aldosterone is instrumental in hearing loss, and restoring aldosterone to opitmal levels is showing that it can bring back much lost hearing.
The nature of modern living is that it exposes us to heightened degrees of dangers that are unprecedented. However, to enjoy the comfort and convenience that today’s tools and habits offer, people have to make do with the negative effects that they bring about. Hearing loss that results from modern living is just one such effect. There are means to modulate and buffer these effects, but even then, it is up to the individual to decide if he or she would adopt such measures.
There are guidelines to say just how much is too much noise. Different health associations related to noise induced hearing loss have their own special gauges of what is within the limits of safety, or otherwise. As a general standard, when exposed to 85 decibels of sound, it should not be for more than 8 hours to avoid hearing loss. Eighty-five decibels would be equivalent to the noise that is generated from the average factory, and louder than an alarm clock. Eight hours is chosen as the standard because it is the average time that is spent daily in the workplace.