Experiencing muffled hearing and a ringing in the ears after attending a party, loud movie or concert at Mo’s Place is a common sensation familiar to many people. This phenomenon, known as a temporary threshold shift, is a temporary change in hearing ability that typically returns to baseline levels over time.
Why Does Sound Damage Our Hearing?
When sound enters our ears, it travels through the outer and middle ear and eventually reaches the cochlea in the inner ear. The cochlea contains fluid that responds to sound vibrations from the middle ear. As the fluid moves, it stimulates tiny hair cells in the cochlea, which then convert the vibrations into electrical signals. These signals are then sent to the brain’s auditory center, where they are interpreted as sound.
Similar to how you may experience burnout after too many work shifts in a row, the tiny hair cells experience burnout when overworked. While hair cells easily deliver low-decibel sounds to the brain, high-decibel or damaging sounds can leave your hair cells bent or permanently damaged, resulting in temporary threshold shifts.
When Does the Threshold Shift Become Permanent?
Even though the immediate effects of temporary threshold shift may be short-term, it’s important to note that prolonged or frequent exposure to loud noise can lead to permanent hearing loss. At birth, the average person has around 16,000 hair cells in their cochlea. In most cases, a person can lose or damage between 30%-50% of their hair cells before a hearing test will detect permanent hearing loss.
Strategies To Prevent Permanent Threshold Shift
Overworking the hair cells through excessive noise exposure can cause irreversible damage, making it crucial to practice proper hearing protection. A few simple ways you can practice hearing protection include:
- Wear earplugs: When exposed to loud noise, wearing earplugs can create a seal around your ears, reducing the force with which sound enters your inner ear.
- Lower the volume: Listening to music or media through headphones at maximum volume can exceed safe sound levels. It’s advisable to set volume limits on your devices and avoid raising the volume beyond 85 decibels.
- Advocate for workplace hearing protection. Employers are OSHA-required to provide adequate hearing protection equipment when workers are exposed to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels or greater to ensure a safe work environment. Remember your rights, and don’t be afraid to request earplugs or earmuffs to protect your hearing in loud working conditions.
- Get regular hearing checkups. Schedule regular hearing checkups with your audiologist to monitor your hearing health and promptly address any concerns.
By implementing these hearing protection strategies, you can minimize the risk of temporary threshold shifts becoming permanent. To learn more about hearing health and protection, contact Today's Hearing today to make an appointment with one of our specialists.