How Sound can Damage Your Health


The ear is often taken for granted when it comes to what it is capable of handling. You never really think about how sound can damage your health. It is the one sense that rarely shuts down on us until it is too late. The eyes end up getting glasses; the nose loses smell when we have a cold and even the taste buds are dulled due to smoking or over consumption of habitual foods.

Your hearing, on the other hand, keeps on keeping on unless you’ve been the victim of a traumatic accident.. If you do not take your hearing into consideration at an early age, you may not have another chance. Tiny hair cells line the inner ear acting as fragile receptors that generate sound vibrations into electrical signals. These electrical signals are transferred to the brain where it differentiates the source. When these hair cells are damaged they will not grow back, making it more and more difficult for you to translate sound waves properly.

It is not a popular topic but noise pollution is more prevalent than you may think. It is all around us and bombards our ears and minds overtly, and especially covertly, resulting in a slew of secondary factors that can affect our entire disposition. If you are an urbanite or commute into a large city, noise pollution seems like the norm. Everywhere you listen there are jarring jackhammers, high pitched train wheels, honking and more.

Unfortunately, noise pollution is not always so easy to spot. Take the television for example. You may not even be aware that it is constantly on in the background of your home, not only subliminally piercing your subconscious with advertising but actually raising the volume when commercials air. In December of 2010 Congress finally took action and passed CALM, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, which requires the FCC to coordinate and mandate decibel levels aired by the television advertising industry within one year from when it was passed. This means that by December 2011 you should start seeing some volume adjustments to your commercial viewing.

There is, of course, a better way to bypass commercial noise pollution. Teach everyone in your household to mute the commercials and have a “commercial conversation”. Parents do not realize that when they and their children are in front of the television it can easily become a drooling, slack jawed experience numbing them from actual human contact. Hitting the mute button brings back golden silence and snaps everyone out of their robotic stupor. It is the perfect opportunity to connect, even for a few minutes, while chatting about everything or nothing.

In addition, many televisions that are cable subscribed offer high channel music. If the television keeps you company when you are putzing around the house do not rely on listening to most of the nonsense that finds its way into your psyche, seek out these music channels and put on some low volume jazz, classical, rock, bluegrass or whatever floats your boat. Most of the time music will fire synapses in your brain that create feel good chemicals and in turn make you smile more. There is also NIHL or Noise Induced Hearing Loss. This can be caused by repetitive exposure to certain outside sources like high volume machinery such as those in a woodworking shop, on a construction site or while working in an automobile repair garage. Over time these sounds, released at very high decibels, can cause NIHL which has been responsible for causing tinnitus (a debilitating constant ringing in the ear that some believe the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh suffered from, which caused him to slice off his ear), sporadic buzzing and eventual hearing loss.

Body and Mind Effects of Unhealthy Sound

NIHL and the previously mentioned causes not only damage our auditory capability but can affect us on some other levels as well. These include:

  • Cortisol Release – This is the stress hormone that ramps up anxiety, puts us on edge and can cause weight gain.
  • Sleep loss
  • Headaches, Fatigue and Irritability
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Vision – Damaging sound can cause loss of precision, color contemplation and night vision. The pupils dilate and strain when exposed to high decibel noise.
  • Balance and Concentration – This can lead to mistakes and even machinery/vehicle accidents.

Protect Yourself

You can easily protect your hearing by using ear plugs or even your fingers when exposed to temporary assaults such as trains, jets or street construction. Soundproof areas where noise is prominent and even a “white noise” machine is helpful as it can mask disturbing outside noise pollution. Be mindful of your music headphone volume and how it may be affecting you and your walking safety. Try turning down your car stereo a few notches as well.

Hearing loss is a serious affliction that sneaks up you. It may be too late to stop the damage by the time you actually notice you aren’t hearing properly. Do what you can to avoid potential risk factors and you’ll be able to protect your hearing for years to come.

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