By, Pam Teel
If you guessed your ears, you are correct. Ears are more important that you may realize. They allow us to balance, and stay awake to listen for threats while we’re asleep. Our brains are also on the lookout, judging which information is important. Your ears hear the noise and your brains decides whether it’s a threat or not.
Within the ear, there are three semicircular canals that are filled with fluid. All three lie at different angles, and each one monitors different head directions. Together, they send information about body position to the brain, which then sends it on to our eyes and muscles. Altogether, this network is called the vestibular system, and this is how we maintain our balance.
When you get motion sickness, it comes about from a mismatch in signals coming from our eyes and ears. For example, when you aboard a boat or ship, your inner ear picks up on rolling motions and sends one set of signals to your brain. Your eyes also see the motion, but not to the same degree. As a result, you might become dizzy or nauseous.
Your ears are full of delicate hairs. We are born with about 16,000 tiny sensory receptors, called hair cells, in a hollow spiral-shaped bone located in the inner ear called the cochlea. These hair cells allow our brains to register sounds. They’re delicate and can be easily damaged to the point where they break and don’t grow back, but not to worry; up to half of those cells can be damaged before changes in your hearing begin to show up.
Ears also respond to air pressure, because the air around us has weight. It presses against everything it touches, as gravity pulls it down. When we go deep into the water, or high up in a plane, or even just up a large mountain, that pressure changes dramatically, doesn’t it? There are small tubes on each side of our faces that are called the Eustachian tubes that respond to changes in pressure. They connect our ears to the back of our throats. Normally, they’re closed, but when we yawn, chew, or swallow, they open.
They also open when the air pressure changes in the environment. This equalizes the pressure on the two sides of the eardrum. The eardrum is a thin tissue that vibrates in response to sound waves. If the pressure becomes unequal, the drum could tear, causing hearing loss.
Everyday noises can also damage our ears. About a quarter of American adults, aged 20 to 70, suffer from hearing loss linked to noise. Loud sounds can hurt hair cells, which means the bad effects continue long after the noise stops. You might want to think about toning down the music! Loud clubs or bars can produce noise around 105 to 110 decibels, which can cause hearing loss in less than five minutes. Even a dog’s constant loud barking in the ear can cause hearing loss after two minutes.
It is a fact that noise above 70 decibels for a prolonged period can start to damage hearing. That level of noise can be also be produced by household products like washing machines, city traffic, lawnmowers, etc.
Having wax in your ear is actually good. Earwax keeps the ears clean and moisturized, and traps and prevents dust, bacteria, and anything else that gets into your ear from irritating the delicate skin inside. If you try to pry it out with a cotton swab, you’ll just stimulate your ear to make more wax. The wax will eventually push itself out naturally. However, wax buildups do occur. If you wear hearing aids, they may be stimulating your ears to produce too much wax. Others just tend to produce too much wax naturally, which can harden and block sound. Hardened earwax can also give you an earache, aggravate tinnitus, and make your ears feel too full. Earwax drops can help alleviate the pressure.
The overall awareness surrounding the dangers of extreme sound exposure is relatively low. And many people don’t realize how loud their environments can really be.
The best way to protect your hearing from noise is to avoid noisy activities. When you can’t avoid loud noise, use hearing protection. Hearing protection devices reduce the level of sound entering your ear. They do not block out sound completely. Hearing protection that does not fit properly will not protect your hearing. Our cumulative sound exposures contribute to our daily “dose” of sound. Regular sound exposures from loud exercise classes, sporting events or playing musical instruments, all add up over time, which can result in a permanent change in hearing. Many people are unaware that it only takes one occurrence, like a concert or the loud discharging of a gun, without proper hearing protection, to permanently inflict change on their hearing.
Noise induced hearing loss can be prevented by being aware of the damaging sound levels and wearing earplugs when exposure to loud sound is unavoidable. A person should reduce the time duration of their sound exposure when it is possible. Walking away from loud noises and/or taking action to physically reduce extreme levels of sound are both options when it comes to protecting our hearing. For many people, the simple action of reducing the volume level of their headphones can be very helpful.
Listening to headphones at full volume (100 decibels or more) is only safe for about 10 minutes. It’s alarming to think about how easy it is for damage to our hearing to occur from this simple act alone. And parents of young children may be unaware of the loudness of their children’s headphone volume. Many adults are also unaware that they may be frequently listening to sound in their headphones at unsafe levels.
Do You Know What Organ On Your Body Allows You To Have Balance?
By, Pam Teel