NOISE POLLUTION AND HEARING HEALTH

There is noise pollution everywhere we go: there are even “noise-cancelling” features in our earbuds and headphones that filter out background noises for us. If we are exposed to unwanted noises for too long, it can be very irritating. No matter what the noise pollution: airplanes overhead or traffic from a nearby road, a dog barking or a lawnmower in a neighbor’s yard– noise pollution is ubiquitous.

Filtering Noise Pollution

With all of the noise surrounding us, it’s no wonder we have different ways to filter it. Our “noise filters” help us block unwanted noise and hear the sounds we do want to hear. Noise pollution is all of the unwanted sound.

Noise pollution can be made up of every-day sounds, and even some of the sounds we want to hear can pose a risk to hearing health. Stereo systems at concerts, movie theaters, sporting events, or even home speakers or ear buds can expose your ears to sounds so loud they can damage your hearing. We like to attend social gatherings and places like bars, concerts, or fireworks shows, but they can increase risk of hearing damage the most.

Hearing Damage

Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by exposure to noises over 80 decibels. This hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Loud, short bursts of noises, like a gunshot or an airplane overhead, can hurt our ears and can cause hearing damage right away.

Even everyday noises we don’t think much about can affect our hearing health. Examples of these noises are lawnmowers (about 90 decibels) and vacuum cleaners (about 70 decibels) By comparison, a normal conversation may be about 60 decibels.

Noise pollution can actually affect our entire bodies. A loud noise such as a bang can disturb digestion, alter your heartbeat and disrupt breathing patterns. Constant exposure to a loud noise can cause crankiness and make it difficult to sleep. Noise can even impact your blood pressure.

After attending a very noisy event like a fireworks show, you may experience a ringing sound in your ears. This ringing is tinnitus, and it can last just a few minutes or even a few days. Permanent hearing loss can result if there are several episodes of tinnitus. Age related hearing loss is due in part to this cumulative effect of hearing damage over a lifetime.

Be Proactive

Fortunately, we can be pro-active to prevent hearing damage by protecting ourselves from noise pollution. This will help to make sure we maintain good hearing even into our older years. Limiting exposure to loud noises is of course one of the best ways to prevent hearing loss. There are a lot of noises we control, like our own stereo systems when we watch movies or listen to music at home. When you are on the go, you can still listen to music but make a switch to over-the-ear headphones instead of earbuds, which are more likely to damage hearing.

When we have plans to attend a very loud event, do your best to avoid the noisiest spots, or even bring ear plugs. If there are loud noises outside such as construction work or a lawnmower, close the windows until the noise subsides.

Noise-canceling headphones allow us to enjoy music at lower volumes, without having to compete with the noises outside of the headphones. That can help to protect hearing for the future as well.

By taking small, easy steps to protect your hearing on a daily basis, you can work to prevent hearing damage as you get older.

If you suspect hearing loss, whatever the cause, visit your audiologist to take action. You may find a resolution that can inhibit or stop the development of hearing damage.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

COULD DRINKING ALCOHOL AFFECT YOUR HEARING?

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, there is no shortage of holiday parties and gatherings, and the alcohol often flows freely at such events. We use alcohol for lots of special occasions: we ring in the new year with champagne, on vacation we may appreciate a glass of wine with dinner. We may even have a cocktail to unwind. Studies have shown that there can be benefits to alcohol in moderation, though drinking too much can also result in serious health implications.

Drinking Too Much

We hear often to never drink and drive, and that a lot of drinking can eventually cause liver problems. Regular alcohol consumption can also impact cognitive function, even weakening basic functions such as driving.

We also hear from our doctors that high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease can result from heavy drinking on a regular basis. One thing you may not have heard is that excessive alcohol consumption could also increase the likelihood of hearing damage.

Our Brains on Alcohol

The auditory cortex of the brain, which translates noises from our ears into meaningful sound, can be harmed by drinking too much. When there is damage to the auditory cortex, our brains can “forget” how to translate the sound from the world so we can understand it. Even when you hear the sounds around you, you could have difficulty understanding those sounds.

When speech is spoken rapidly, you may begin to have trouble understanding what is being said. Distinguishing between varying sounds and voices and sounds can become a problem, as well as filtering out background noise.

Our Ears on Alcohol

Deep inside of our ears we have delicate, tiny hair cells that gather sounds and interpret them into electrical pulses to the brain. These little hair cells can be damaged by alcohol use, and they cannot regrow or repair themselves.  

A phenomenon called “cocktail deafness” was discovered by a study in the UK that followed young adults who became drunk and found that they sometimes experienced temporary hearing damage. Though hearing typically returned for these young people after a few hours, recurrent bouts of cocktail deafness can result in permanent hearing loss in the long run.

Alcohol and Dizziness

If you have ever spent a night of heavy drinking out, you may have found that you experienced a feeling of dizziness or imbalance while you were inebriated.

This feeling of imbalance is the result of a change in your inner ear fluid, which controls your feelings of balance. Drinking too much can cause this change in the inner ear. This is why motor functions like walking and driving are affected when we are drunk: we feel unbalanced and have difficulty with perception.

Alcohol is absorbed into the inner ear fluid, remaining there longer than it does in the bloodstream. If this happens too often, episodes of vertigo or dizziness may result. You may feel disoriented, like the room is spinning, and have difficulty with ordinary spatial function.

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears can be another side effect of excessive alcohol consumption—it usually disappears in just a few hours, but some episodes can last longer.

Alcohol and Hearing Loss

There are many reasons to abstain from heavy drinking: hearing health is just one more. There are many resources to help you quit drinking, but the most important thing is your determination to change.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.