Turn down the volume of your music player!
Listening to loud music is proving to be one of the biggest man made cause of hearing loss. Too many young people are losing their hearing too quickly due to loud music from their ear phones. With the exponential increase in smartphone sales across the globe, two things have become ambivalent- cameras and music player. These come inbuilt in any smartphone and have a potential our life in several ways- good and bad!

There have been large scale Europe and US wide studies on thousands of teenager who listen to music through their earphones for more than two hours. Turns out that an alarming number of these young people have significant level of hearing loss due to irreversible damage to the cells in their ears (called outer hair cells).

Our ears are absolute marvel of complex engineering! It is a glorified barometer, equaliser and transducer of sound energy just like the micorphone and speaker system you have in your phone. The tiny parts inside the ear can barely fit on a penny coin but can help us discriminate the frequencies from 20Hz to 20000Hz and can detect pressure difference from 0.00002Pa to 63 pa, which is approx 3 million times of minimum sound pressure they can detect.

This intricate process is disturbed when some of those Hair Cells do not work. Some babies are, unfortunately, born with partially or fully absent Hair Cells. These babies are given a hearing aid to help them. However, loud noise is a very easy way to damage these Hair Cells in individuals who are otherwise born with good hearing. In fact, all the governments around the world has stipulated guidelines around how loud the noises can be at work.  This is around 75-85dBA for a working day. The louder the noise, lesser is the time it takes to damage the ear e.g. a noise of 130 dBA can damage ear drums and structures inside the ear in seconds. Personal music players easily produce sounds in the range of 80-115dBA and different types of earphones will easily further increase it by 7-9dB. So, the maths is simple. The more you listen to music and louder the volume is-more the damage it will cause to hearing. Approximately 5% to 10% of the listeners are at high risk due to the levels patterns and duration of their listening preferences. The best estimate from the limited data we have available suggests that this maybe between 2.5 and 10 million people in EU. Those are the individuals listening to music over 1 hour a day at high volume control setting

Furthermore, ear is not the only thing that is at the risk of damage from loud noises. There is a strong body of evidence suggesting that loud noises affect the brain, heart, stress level and general wellness.

What can be done about it!

Most clinicians will suggest that you do not increase the level of the volume in your device above 60%. However, in noisy situations (in trains, buses and other public places) with 60% volume, you will not hear music properly. Therefore, noise cancelling headphones are a good option. They will not only cup the ears and cut off some of the noise but also, digital noise cancellation will reduce some amount of noise from the surrounding too. Headphones are better than ear phones, unless you get specially customised ear phones made from your ear impression-covering the whole of the ear from the noise.

Also, as a rule of thumb, if the person standing next to you can hear the song that you are playing in your ear via the earphone- it is too loud for you. If you listen to music via earphones every day, try this:

6 Steps to save your hearing from loud music:

Step 1: Go in the quietest area of the house

Step 2: Put the music app on your device and plug the ear phones in your ears

Step 3: Set the volume to a comfortable level that is acceptable to you

Step 4: Ask a normal hearing person in the house, if they can hear the song you are playing from 2 feet

Step 5: If they can-reduce the volume and follow step 4. If they can’t-

Step 6. Lock the volume level of your device to this level.

The temptation will be to increase the volume in noisy environment (bus, train, tubes etc.). That is what you have to get used to if you really want protect your hearing and wellness.

The sound travels from outer ear to ear drum, which through three tiny bones attached to it-sends the sounds to inner ear. Inner ear has hair like cells (called Hair Cells), which moves with sound vibration. Their movement triggers an electrical process in the hair cells of inner ear (Cochlea), which generates an electrical pattern of the sounds-carried to brain by the hearing nerve, making us hear and understand the sounds around us.

What else is noisy in the household!
Another very common source of noise in the house is a snoring partner! Studies indicate that snoring noise can generate an alarmingly high level of  noise, which can be damaging for partner’s ears due to a nightly exposure of several hours of noise. Custom-made ear sleeves can help in reducing the risk to your ears if your partner snores.