With the external ear lost, hearing can still be retained. The opposite goes for damage to the inner ear, according to an associate professor of audiology from the University of Iowa. The professor was a featured speaker at the noise symposium held at the University recently, by the Noise Technical Assistance Center through the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Hearing loss caused by noise results from damage to the tiny hair cells, called cilia, in our inner ear. Sound vibrations enter the inner ear and stimulate the cilia, which then send an electrical signal to the brain that interprets the sound. Sense of hearing deteriorates naturally as one grows older. There are many cases of hearing loss at younger ages, especially those related to prolonged exposure to loud noise.
The cilia cannot be repaired or regenerated, unlike with other cells. Increased volume is possible with hearing aids, but distinguishing between sounds is not. Soft, high frequency sounds are lost first. Later, the person feels isolated, as he can no longer participate in conversations, listen to TV or the radio, or talk on the phone.
The public in general can make the connection between hearing loss and noise, but they do not recognize its effects on health overall. Diseases may worsen due to noise exposure, but noise does not directly cause the disease. Stress and insomnia, risk factors for hypertension and ulcers, are directly caused by noise. Epinephrine is released into the bloodstream after loud noises are heard, which causes increased blood pressure, increased rate of breathing, and muscle tightening.
The body never really adjusts to loud noise, and the stress response continues. For cases of stress, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, ulcers, headaches, asthma, and colitis, the stress response makes them worse or causes them. That noise disrupts sleeping patterns has been proven. Those who live in noisy areas would tell you all about this. The effects of noise on sleep are both in terms of length and depth.
Even though we may not wake up when bothered by a noise, we may shift from deep sleep to a light sleep. There are so many ways health can be effected, starting with drowsiness and inefficiency. The effects of noise reach into emotions and behavior, even with such outcomes as anti-social behavior, suicide, and murder. In addition, noise can mask cries for help.
Ear protection devices can be used to negate the effects of loud or prolonged noise. With acoustical ear plugs and muffs, one can never go wrong. Neither is better than the other. A ceiling does exist for the amount of protection they can give. It is truly a loud sound that can shake the skull and affect the inner ear.
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