Saturday 21 August 2010

Loud music is causing teenagers to go deaf

How many times have we heard very loud music emenating from inside a car that is driving by us? Many times. Imagine if you will what it would be like inside the car with the windows closed and the decibel level dangerously high. The young fools who submit their ears to this kind of sound don’t really appreciate the fact that they are gradually becoming permanently deaf.

The tympanic membrane, or eardrum, is a thin membrane that separates the external ear from the middle ear. Its function is to transmit sound from the air to the ossicles inside the middle ear. The malleus bone bridges the gap between the eardrum and the other ossicles. Rupture or perforation of the eardrum can lead to permanent hearing loss. From then on, the person must use a hearing aid in his or her ear.

If you you use a needle to punch small holes in a snare drum, eventually, the drum becomes useless because it won’t vibrate any longer. Extreme noise does the same thing to a human ear drum. The small holes are very minute and cannot be seen by the human eye but they are there nevertheless. Too many holes in the ear drum brings about deafness. It certainly will bring about a ringing noise in your ears.

When I served in the Canadian Navy in the early 1950s on board one of the navy’s two cruisers, our ship on occasion fired the six-inch naval guns. My job was that of a shell-hoist operator. I stood between two of the three large guns and when they were fired, the very big BANG each time the three of them went off at the same time, assaulted my eardrums. We were given cotton batten to put in our ears but the cotton batten kept falling out of my ears. I couldn’t put it back into my ears because I was straddling a large opening that went down into the ship some considerable distance. Besides, my hands were always on the handles that controlled the hoists that raised the heavy shells up from down below.

It was while I served on the cruiser that I began having a ringing in my ears. The ringing in my ears never left me. I imagine all of the sailors that were in the three gun turrets and on the bridge suffer form the same ailment. Nowadays, armed forces people who fire or load large guns wear ear protectors.

A recent survey conducted by Australian Hearing found, adults aged between 18 and 24 reported suffering from tinnitus or ringing in the ear. That means that, at some point in their lives, they've felt ringing in their ears at least once.

Doesn't this just mean that 18 to 24 year olds are more likely to have attended a few concerts? Granted, these concerts do cause some minor hearing loss, but nothing you'd miss. We all feel kinda sick after a tinnitus-inducing concert experience.

Research in the US suggests that MP3 players, iPods and more exposure to live music have caused an increase in hearing loss among teenagers. A national study noticed that the number of teenagers suffering from hearing problems has shot up by nearly a third in the past 20 years. Also, between 2005 and 2006, one in five adolescents suffered some form of hearing loss. The increase was significantly 6.5 million more than in an earlier survey conducted between 1988 and 1994.

Scientists feel that the exposure to loud noise, including amplified music, may be an explanation for the hearing loss that the teenagers are suffering from.

Dr Josef Shargorodsky, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, went through the two databases to find out if there was a comparable degree of hearing loss in the different time frames. Though majority of teenagers suffered from slight hearing loss, the number of cases of mild or worse hearing loss was 77 per cent higher in the second survey.

The authors wrote in the journal JAMA: “Hearing loss is a common sensory disorder, affecting tens of millions of individuals of all ages in the United States.”

Has anyone noticed that the sound level in movie theaters has steadily increased over the past few years? No, I'm not talking about obnoxious people sitting behind you... it's coming from the speakers.This is especially true with the trailers before the movie starts. You have two choices: Go deaf, or cover your ears. It's gotten to point where at times it's downright painful.

Sure, movie explosions and music building to a crescendo have always been the louder parts of films... but lately the audio level has risen to the point where I sometimes find myself covering my ears.

Is this what happens when you put teenagers in control of the audio in the projection booth because they are gradually becoming deaf themselves? Sure, I listened to my music so loud it blocked out the external world when I was 16, but to inflict that on a couple of hundred people is just not right. I have on occasion complained to the manager of a theatre to have the projectionist tone down the volume.

Though older males exposed to significant occupational noise demonstrate significantly reduced hearing sensitivity than their non-exposed peers, differences in hearing sensitivity decrease with time and the two groups are indistinguishable by age 79."

We already know loud noises are harmful to our hearing. This is why, when we hear a loud noise, or go to a concert, our ears hurt afterward, sometimes for a day or two. Pain, if you're unaware, is how the human body informs you of injury.

If someone constantly subjects him/herself to painful auditory trauma, and remains oblivious to their gradual hearing loss until it becomes significant. By then of course, it’s too late to correct the problem.

I suppose some day in the future, ear drums can be replaced or maybe even the minute holes in the damaged eardrums can be plugged. But until that occurs, by the time teenagers in this era get to my age (77) they will need to wear hearing aids in both ears.

Just a minute. “What did you say dear?” I wish my wife would speak up. I can hardly hear her. Just kidding. There she did it again. I can see her lips moving. But to those young people reading this article----turn the volume down. The ear drums you save are the only ones you have for the rest of your life. Ignore them and you will lose them.

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