Hearing loss is a common issue as people get older. Sometimes, age-related loss simply happens with no recognizable cause. The amount of noise you’re exposed to throughout your lifetime, though, could be a contributor to accelerated hearing loss. It’s also a preventable cause of lost hearing.
The progression of hearing loss is often slow to develop. Your brain adapts so it’s often difficult for you to notice the changes. A hearing test and ear examination with the head and neck specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates is the best way to check the condition of your hearing and to learn about your options if hearing loss is found.
Understanding how loud noises affect your hearing over time may help you to realize when hearing loss may be a factor in your life, even if you aren’t aware it has started. You can also take steps to prevent further damage to your ears. Here’s what you need to know.
Physical damage caused by noise
Your eardrum and middle ear components work together to set fluid in motion within the cochlea, an organ in the inner ear.
Inside the cochlea are thousands of tiny hairs called cilia. Like a field of wheat swept by the wind, these cilia respond to the motion of cochlear fluid, generating small electrical impulses that travel along auditory nerves for interpretation by the brain.
When you’re exposed to loud sounds, the fluid in the cochlea moves more aggressively, causing the cilia to bend more. After a concert or a loud sporting event, it may take time for the cilia to recover. Your hearing may seem dull or muffled until that happens.
With repeated exposure to loud noise, or sometimes after a single extremely loud incident, some cilia may be damaged. They may no longer generate impulses that your brain can use.
When enough cochlear cilia become damaged or die, you’ll no longer hear frequencies that these small hairs detected. At this stage, hearing loss is permanent.
Cilia aren’t the only cochlear components that can be damaged by loud noise. Cells, membranes, and even parts of the auditory nerve are vulnerable to loud noises over time.
Age is not a factor
Noise can damage the hearing of any person, of any age, at any time. Because the effects of loud noise exposure add up over time, hearing loss becomes more severe as you get older, but it may be directly related to noise you experienced decades earlier.
Before hearing loss can be detected through testing, you may already have up to 50% of your cochlear cilia damaged or destroyed by loud noise. Protecting your hearing at a young age can delay or avoid the development of hearing issues later in life.
Schedule an exam and hearing test with Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates regularly to monitor the health of your hearing. Call the nearest location in Lawrence or Ottawa directly to arrange the time and date. You’ll never know how important your hearing is until it’s gone. Book a session today.