When you were younger you most likely had no idea that cranking the volume up on your music could lead to health problems. You were just having fun listening to your tunes.
As you grew, you may have indulged in nights out at loud concerts or the movies. You may have even picked a job where loud noise is the norm. Still, you didn’t think it had any long-term impact.
You probably know differently now. Noise-induced hearing impairment can show up in kids as young as 12. But sound is so powerful it can actually be used as a weapon.
Can Sound Make You Ill?
Actually, it Can. It’s evident to doctors and scientists alike that certain sound can make you ill. This is the reason why.
How Loud Sound Impacts Health
The inner ear can be injured by really loud sounds. After sound passes through the membrane of the eardrum it’s picked up by little hairs in the ears. These hairs never regenerate once they are destroyed. This is what causes the sensorineural hearing loss that many people deal with as they age.
Over 85 dB of volume for an 8 hour period will start to cause permanent impairment. It only takes 15 minutes for long-term impairment to set in at 100 dB. A rock concert is about 120 decibels, which causes instantaneous, irreversible damage.
Cardiovascular health can also be impacted by noise. High blood pressure, clogged arteries, obesity, and other vascular issues can be the result of elevated stress hormones induced by excessively loud noise. This could explain the memory and headache issues that people subjected to loud noise complain about. Cardiovascular health is strongly related to these symptoms.
As a matter of fact, one study showed that sound volumes that start to impact the heart, and hormones are as low a 45 decibels. A person speaking with a quiet indoor voice is at this volume level.
How Sound Frequency Impacts Health
Several years ago, diplomats in Cuba got sick when exposed to sounds. This sound was not at a really high volume. It could even be blocked out by a television. How might it have been able to make people sick?
The answer is frequency.
High frequency sounds such as the one experienced in Cuba can do appreciable harm at lower volumes.
Have you ever cringed when someone scraped their nails on a chalkboard? Have you ever begged a co-worker to stop as they press their fingers across a folded piece of paper? Have you ever needed to cover your ears during a violin recital?
If you’ve felt the power of high-pitched sounds, the pain you felt was in fact damage being done to your hearing. The damage could have become permanent if you’ve exposed yourself to this sort of sound repeatedly for longer time periods.
Research has also revealed that damage can happen even if you can’t hear the sound. Damaging frequencies can come from lots of common devices like machinery, trains, sensors, etc.
Your health can also be affected by infrasound which is extremely low frequency sound. The vibrations can make you feel dizzy and physically ill. Some individuals even get migraine symptoms like flashes of light and color.
Protecting Your Hearing
Be aware of how you feel about particular sounds. If you’re feeling pain or other symptoms when you’re around specific sounds, reduce your exposure. If you’re feeling pain in your ears, you’re most likely doing damage.
Get your hearing checked regularly by a hearing specialist to understand how your hearing might be changing over time.