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Turn it down.

Can listening to loud music really hurt your ears? For those who like putting on earphones and cranking up the volume, the unfortunate answer is yes--loud music can indeed cause temporary and even permanent hearing loss.

Noise-induced hearing loss can occur at any age, but it is a preventable condition. Doctors at Makati Medical Center's ENT Diagnostic Center breaks down the causes of noise-induced hearing loss, and gives us advice on how to protect our ears against damaging noise levels.


According to Makati Med's Victoria Sarmiento, MD, "Our ears have three areas--the outer, middle, and inner ear. The eardrum (tympanic membrane) divides the middle and outer ear. When you hear something, the sound vibrations or sound waves are funneled from the outer part, down the ear canal where the sound hits the eardrum, causing it to vibrate."

These vibrations pass through three small bones in the middle ear. They are then transmitted to the inner ear where tiny hairs in the cochlea (a snail-shaped organ) transform them into nerve impulses carried to the brain by the auditory nerve.


"Now, remember that your ears are very delicate," says Sarmiento. "If the noise you are exposed to is very loud, there's a chance that the ears' mechanism will be injured resulting in a condition called Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS), which may lead to temporary hearing loss. A number of people exposed to intense noise levels at a concert may experience this."

Individuals can also contract tinnitus, which causes persistent ringing in the ears or clicking, hissing, or buzzing sounds. When vibration-sensitive inner-ear cells are damaged, a person can still hear the ringing or buzzing even when there's no sound at all. Though hearing frequently reverts to normal after a while, there's still the danger of permanent hearing loss when exposed to high noise levels on a regular basis.


Several studies have shown that the culprits aren't the music devices themselves, but the earphones, particularly the earbud, a type of earphone that plug into the ear canal and which most people use when listening to music.

Earbuds tend to have higher output levels at any given volume-control setting. In addition, the tiny earphones aren't as efficient at blocking other sounds as the muff-type or cushioned headsets, which lead users to turn up the volume to compensate.

"It's the high frequency hearing that deteriorates first," Sarmiento points out. "So if there's damage, you will have difficulty hearing high-pitched voices." And many of the words in the lyrics of your favorite song will begin to sound alike, especially those that contain high-frequency sounds like 's' or soft 'c', 'f', 'sh', 'ch', or 'h'.


Sarmiento says to remember to keep music volumes at a moderate level. "If you need to shout to be heard over the music, this means the volume is too high."

She continues, "When using earphones, be conscious of how loud you've turned the music up. If the person next to you can hear what you're playing, then turn the volume down a level or so. It's also advisable to give your ears a rest if you're in the habit of wearing earphones."


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Title Annotation:Wellbeing
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Dec 22, 2015
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