Hearing Health Facts

Noise and Hearing loss

We are surrounded by noise in nearly all areas of modern life. People do not like loud noises or intense sounds. Our ears are delicate and complex structures that are easily damaged. We are exposed to noise at work, to traffic noise in the street and when we listen to music or go to night clubs or concerts where the volume is too loud.

A continuous noise level of 85 dB will result in hearing damage. This is the sound level of heavy road traffic. Compressed air hammers have a sound level of about 100 dB and rock concerts almost always reach 110-120 dB – the same sound intensity can easily be produced in headsets when you listen to your stereo. Not to mention the noise levels in many schools and kindergartens!

Noise exposure and intense sounds can cause two main types of hearing loss, namely temporary threshold shift and permanent threshold shift.

Temporary threshold shift is mostly experienced as a temporary dullness in your hearing after exposure to loud noises. Your hearing will subsequently recover – depending on how loud the noises have been and how long you have been exposed to them.

Permanent threshold shift is first experienced 48 hours after exposure to excessive noise. Permanent threshold shift can occur if you have been regularly exposed to excessive noise for long periods of time. It can also occur if you are exposed to very high sound levels for a short period of time. This type of hearing loss will normally continue to increase for up to five years after exposure to the noise.

Exposure to noise and high sound levels can also result in Tinnitus – a constant sound in your ears or head.  

What is a decibel, and what is the loudest sound I can listen to before it hurts my ears?                              

The decibel (abbreviated dB) is the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound. The decibel scale is a little odd because the human ear is incredibly sensitive. Your ears can hear everything from your fingertip brushing lightly over your skin to a loud jet engine. In terms of power, the sound of the jet engine is about 1,000,000,000,000 times more powerful than the smallest audible sound. That's a big difference!      

On the decibel scale, the smallest audible sound (near total silence) is 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. A sound 1,000 times more powerful than near total silence is 30 dB. Here are some common sounds and their decibel ratings:

  • Near total silence - 0 dB
  • A whisper - 15 dB
  • Normal conversation - 60 dB
  • A lawnmower - 90 dB
  • A car horn - 110 dB
  • A rock concert or a jet engine - 120 dB
  • A gunshot or firecracker - 140 dB

You know from your own experience that distance affects the intensity of sound if you are far away, the power is greatly diminished. All of the ratings above are taken while standing near the sound.       Any sound above 85 dB can cause hearing loss, and the loss is related both to the power of the sound as well as the length of exposure. You know that you are listening to an 85-dB sound if you have to raise your voice to be heard by somebody else. Eight hours of 90-dB sound can cause damage to your ears; any exposure to 140-dB sound causes immediate damage (and causes actual pain).

Consequences of hearing impairment

Untreated hearing loss may lead to numerous social and psychological problems. Some hearing-impaired people also experience physical problems because of their hearing loss.                              

Reactions differ from person to person, but most hearing-impaired people suffer some social, psychological and physical problems as a result of their hearing loss.                              

Surveys indicate that hearing-impaired people benefit socially and psychologically and improve their quality of life when their hearing loss is treated with proper hearing aids.

Ear Wax Build-up

One major problem with hearing is caused by a build-up of wax in the ear canal. Normally, the ear is a self cleaning mechanism. The skin grows outward from the eardrum to the outer canal. The fine hairs gently and constantly move dry particles of wax, and sloughed skin out of the canal. If not cleaned, the eardrum can become completely blocked thus resulting to reduce hearing & eventually cause permanent hearing damage. One cause of build-up of wax in the ear canal is the use of cotton swabs. The cotton swab is larger than the canal and many times you will be pushing wax deep into the canal, until it is completely blocked. The best way to clean an ear canal is to use a few drops of pure apple cider vinegar. Use a medicine dropper to place two or three drops in your ears, two or three times a week. You can also flush out the canal using warm water (make sure it won't burn) in a rubber syringe. If you have itching in your ear canal, you can use a few drops of baby oil once or two times a week to lubricate the canal. Do not remove ear wax with objects such as hair pins. You can damage your ear drum or scratch your ear canal and cause an infection. You should have your ears checked at least once every year either by your doctor or by a hearing specialist.

Fluid in MIddle Ear                                                   

Many individuals suffer with the build-up of fluid in the middle ear. Any excessive fluid normally drains out the eustachian tube. When the eustachian tube becomes blocked either by swelling or by accumulation of mucus or pus, small bones in the middle ear can be damaged, and can cause intense pain & can even rapture the eardrum. 

Birth Defects / Diseases & Viruses                                                      

German measles or any other viral diseases that a woman contracts during her first 3 months of pregnancy may damage the hearing of her baby. Have your baby's hearing be tested if you suspect that he/she has a hearing impairment. Early care & training is very important for the child's development. Common childhood diseases such as measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever, or any high fever can leave permanent hearing impairment if not treated well. 

Cold & Sinus Problems      

Colds, Sinus Problems, Allergies, Throat Inflammations, can lead to infections of the middle ear. It commonly strikes children. When infections of the nose or throat spreads to the middle ear, pus accumulate in the middle ear. This may cause pain and some hearing loss. If not treated, the small bones in the middle ear can become damaged and can cause severe hearing loss. 

Old Age

Gradual loss of hearing commonly and naturally develops among people over the age of 65. About 10% of people who are more than 65 yrs. old, have hearing problems. They find it hard to hear conversations in noisy environments. 

Injuries & Other Causes                        

Blows to the head, severe burns on the head and other head injuries can damage the outer, middle or inner ear and thus can cause hearing impairment. Reactions to certain drugs can also cause hearing impairment. Common symptoms associated with hearing impairment are ringing sounds in the ears & dizziness.