There are lots of scenarios where you might experience loud noises. Whether that’s at work, or just walking down the street, ear protection can come in handy. But what happens if you don’t wear any?

Why do you need to wear ear protection? If you don’t, you could experience hearing loss. Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs in the inner ear are damaged, and they can’t grow back, or when the eardrum ruptures. Ear defenders and earplugs prevent this from happening, which is why you have to wear them in loud workplaces and similar environments.

So, it may seem like a chore to have to buy and use ear protectors, but they really work.

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What Is Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

There are two kinds of noise induced hearing loss. The first is caused by chronic noise. This occurs when we are in loud environments for long periods of time, like a loud workplace. Over time, the damage builds up until it’s noticeable.

The other kind of noise induced hearing loss is acute. Only a moment is needed to cause acute hearing loss. It occurs when our ears are subjected to extremely loud noises, like if somebody shouted into a megaphone pointed right at your ear.

What Causes Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

The cause of noise induced hearing loss is damage to the inner ear. But what exactly does that mean? How can sounds, which you can’t feel, cause damage to anything?
Sound waves are physical. They are waves, as the name suggests. When something hits something else or makes a noise, the air around it moves away in a quick wave. It’s almost like dominoes falling over at a microscopic level, where one part of the air hits another, which then hits into another, and so on. That’s how sounds travel through air.

Our ears pick up on these waves. They cause our ear drums to vibrate, and the tiny hairs in our inner ears to wobble. These vibrations and wobbles create tiny electrical signals which our brains interpret as sound. These tiny hairs are fragile, however. They have to be small and thin to pick up on sound waves. A wave which is too strong/loud can break these hairs. A loud enough noise can even burst your eardrum, which has the same effect, and is immensely painful.

What are the benefits of ear defenders, acoustic earmuffs and ear plugs?

Ear defenders are like big pairs of headphones, except you can’t play music through them. Ear defenders are also known as Acoustic earmuffs. They cover your ears entirely and block noise from the outside. They entirely block out low level noise, and make loud noises much quieter so that they don’t cause hearing loss.

You can also use earplugs to achieve the same goal. With the path between the sound waves and you rear physically blocked, the hairs of your inner ear can’t be badly damaged.

When to Wear Ear Protection

Ear defenders are most commonly used in noisy workplaces. You’ll see workers on building sites and at airports wearing them, for example. But ear protection isn’t just for work. There are lots of scenarios where you might benefit from using either ear defenders or earplugs.

When you’re doing DIY is a good example. The sound of a drill up close to your ear is more than enough to cause hearing damage. And if you’ve ever been to a loud rock concert, you may have noticed that some people there will wear earplugs. They can still hear the music, but not loud enough to cause hearing loss.

You can wear ear plugs any time you like. If you feel like the noise of the street is too loud, with all the passing cars and loud music, you can wear them when walking around in your day to day life too.

Why Wear Ear Protection?

You may think that hearing loss won’t affect you. Perhaps it seems like the noises you’re told to protect your ears from aren’t that loud. Even if that’s the case, it’s still important to protect your hearing as much as possible. Here’s why.

You’ll Be More Comfortable

While it may seem like a chore to wear ear protection, you quickly get used to it. And once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Blocking out loud noises helps you stay happier and calmer at work. Even if you don’t notice it, loud noises put your body into a state of alert. Your heart beats faster (and in some cases, a lot faster). Your blood pressure rises and your breathing becomes more rapid, too. This is the body’s fight-or-flight response. By blocking out the noises, you’ll stop your body from becoming stressed in this way.

Chronic Hearing Loss CaN Be Unnoticeable

The small hairs in your inner ear which pick up on sounds can break, as described above. But these aren’t like any old hairs. That’s because they don’t grow back. Once one is broken, it’s broken for good.

This is the issue with chronic hearing loss. Let’s say you work in a noisy environment—it doesn’t matter where. Each day at work, some of these tiny hairs are broken if you don’t wear ear protection. Crucially, you won’t notice this happening: it doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t significantly affect your hearing.

But over time, as more and more of the tiny hairs break, your hearing declines. As you reach middle age and old age, your hearing is a lot worse than it should be. If you’d like to know more about your hearing, hearing aids, and ear protectors, why not talk to Sandia Hearing Aid Center?