Hearing loss is something that we as a society accept as being a part of aging and is most prevalent among our older population. Some even question if it’s even worth trying to do anything to protect our hearing from loud noises as they have accepted hearing loss as their eventual, natural fate.
However, it turns out that the source of hearing loss may have a major impact on a person’s ability to understand speech, enjoy music, and engage in daily life’s interactions. A study with Purdue University and the University of Rochester measured differences in neural processing of sound in chinchillas. In the study, they compared the two most common sources of hearing loss or difficulty: noise trauma and age-related metabolic loss.
According to the study, it seems that noise-induced hearing loss causes substantially greater changes in neural processing of complex sounds compared with age-related metabolic loss. This potentially explains the large differences in speech perception commonly seen between people with the same clinically defined degree of hearing loss based on an audiogram.
The difference between the two is that metabolic loss is age-related deterioration of the electrochemical gradient (the ear’s “battery”) in the inner ear. This naturally deteriorates as an individual gets older. Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by physical trauma to various parts of the ear, causing scattered damage and loss of delicate sensory hair cells within the cochlea. The trauma can be caused by a one-time event such as an explosion or a long-term event such as being around heavy machinery without any ear protection.
According to researcher Michael Heinz, “For complex sounds like speech or music, it is worse to get hearing loss from noise exposure than from age; luckily noise exposure is preventable,” Heinz said. “Although these two types of hearing loss are currently categorized together in clinical audiology, these results suggest the need to develop specific treatments, such as different hearing-aid amplification strategies, for each type of loss.”
“Avoiding exposure to loud sounds is the best prevention, such as limiting the earbud volume with your smartphone to one-half to two-thirds of the maximum. If someone else can hear your music through your earbuds, it is way too loud,” Heinz said. “Other simple strategies exist, such as wearing ear plugs when attending a sporting or music event or when mowing the lawn. Ear plugs or ear muffs are also easy solutions in loud work environments, which are regulated by federal guidelines for required hearing protection.”
One of the big takeaways from this study is realizing that noise-induced hearing loss may be worse for your day-to-day life and safety than age-related hearing loss. Knowing that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, individuals should incorporate these simple strategies to minimize noise exposure and reduce the amount of cases related to noise-induced hearing.
We hope that this information will help you and your loved ones optimize your hearing health and better manage it for years to come. Use AudioCardio for one hour a day to better protect, maintain, and strengthen your hearing.
We’ve linked the report below if you’re interested in learning more about the study referenced in this article.