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Threat to the Ears

By on August 31, 2012

Millions of men and women put in their earphones or excuse me, their ‘ear buds’ and jam to their favorite tune. Listening to good music seems to help us mellow out. But did you know that earphones on personal music players can reach noise levels as high as jet engines, causing temporary hearing loss?

It stands to reason most of us know that being exposed to loud noises over time can cause hearing problems but many of us do nothing about it. A research study leader Dr. Martine Hamann of the University of Leicester said turning the volume up too high on headphones could damage the coating of nerve cells, leading to temporary deafness. I’m sorry I cannot lose my hearing over Hip Hop music.

According to the study results that were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the coating surrounding the nerve cells can reform — after exposure to sound louder than 110 decibels — letting the cells function again as normal. While this is not a guarantee, it also means hearing loss from loud sounds could be temporary, and full hearing could return.

“The research allows us to understand the pathway from exposure to loud noises to hearing loss,” Hamann said. “Dissecting the cellular mechanisms underlying this condition is likely to bring a very significant healthcare benefit to a wide population. The work will help prevention as well as progression into finding appropriate cures for hearing loss.”

Nerve cells that carry electrical signals from the ears to the brain have a coating called the myelin sheath, which helps the electrical signals travel along the cell. Exposure to loud noises — i.e. sound more than 110 decibels — could strip the cells of this coating, disrupting the electrical signals. This means the nerves can no longer efficiently transmit information from the ears to the brain, Hamann said.

Remember that when using earphones, it’s critical to do these three things to protect your hearing:

  1. Always manage the volume on your personal player so that you can still hear ambient noise. You should be able to hear someone 3-6 feet away from you with headphones in your ear.
  2. Manage the time you decide to use earphones so you are not listening to loud music for hours at a time. Give yourself  abreak at least every hour or so. And by all means, for safety never use earphones with loud music playing if you hear ringing in your ears.
  3. See a hearing specialist if there are any signs of hearing loss, temporary or otherwise. Avoid trying to self-diagnose a hearing problem. Sometimes it could be nothing, sometimes it could be  a major something.

By all means enjoy your music and the earphones that fit comfortably to your ear. But pay attention to warning signs of early stages of hearing loss.


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