Sound Advice: About Your Ears

Written by on 12 October, 2017

About Your Ears

On radio 1 of Plexus Radio we care about the health of your ears. This month has been a long and loud one! There have been lots of great shows and festivals going on all over, and a few people have probably been a bit hard on their ears. This article has some facts about your ears and some tips about how to keep them healthy and happy for life.

Your ears are an amazing organ; they can hear everything from the slightest sound to the loudest roar. Sound enters your ears through the ear canal, that hole in your head just inside your outer ear. From there it is transmitted through three tiny bones and into the cochlea, a small snailshaped part of the ear. Inside is where the real magic takes place, as the mechanical vibrations of sound are converted to nerve impulses. Pretty cool if you think about it!

Yet, in the last century we have exposed our ears to more damaging sounds than ever before: jet engines, race tracks, concerts, high-output speaker systems, headphones, guns, construction and agricultural equipment, and so on. The ear is one of the few organs science has not been able to successfully transplant, and even efforts to help with hearing aids can be less than fully satisfactory. So always treat your ears with care!

Deafness can occur in several ways, and can occur gradually or quickly, depending on the circumstances. Some instances of damage have occurred from exposure to extremely loud noises that rupture the eardrums, but most hearing problems are caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of sound, generally in certain frequency ranges or bands. This can cause people to hear everything fine, except for the sounds that make your voice intelligible. Sometimes the ears will heal if they are not exposed to any more abuse, but often the damage is permanent. One of the culprits to how the ears can be damaged is really because of the ear itself.When the ears are exposed to loud noises, the ear adjusts to that level of sound and the sound then no longer seems so loud or damaging. This is called temporal hearing shift; the easiest demonstration of this is what you experience when you fire a large-caliber gun at close range. After the gunshot, you can feel the ear “become quiet.” What has happened is that these highly energetic sound waves caused by the gunshot have caused the muscles in the ear to contract to protect against other loud noises.

The same thing happens – albeit, at a less noticeable level – with loud concerts. Sound engineers for major touring bands go to great lengths to avoid feedback and extremely loud sounds before a show, so as to not have their ears go into temporal hearing shift. Why? Because it will affect the way the soundperson mixes the band and he/she may produce a sonically unbalanced mix, which will result in the band sounding edgy or harsh to the audience.

So to finish up, here are some tips for your ears.

  • Always try to be aware of what you are listening to and how loud it really is. Do your ears feel uncomfortable?
  • If you are talking to someone in a loud environment, try not to yell or talk loudly directly into his or her ear. This can cause sound levels in excess of what jet engines produce! Try to talk at a near normal level if close to the ear and if talking loudly, try to talk in front or behind the ear of the person you are talking to.
  • Always try to have earplugs with you when going to see loud events.
  • If you are in a loud and constantly high sound level area, try to step out to a quieter area for five or ten minutes of every hour.
  • Children under three should have their hearing protected more than an adult. Their ears are more easily damaged, and damage at this stage of development can become permanent. Protect your kids more than you would yourself!
  • If your ears ring after a concert or any other activity, this is a sign that you have been too hard them. Be especially careful with your ears for the next two to three days until they can heal. And be careful the next time you’re out!
  • If you’re a musician or in the music business, have your ears checked every year or two. This can warn you of the onset of hearing damage.

So take care of those pretty little ears! ‘Nuff Said.


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