Do you like your music loud?

Do you like your music loud? It’s possible that, over time you may seriously damage your hearing.

By law, those who work with noisy machinery have to wear ear defenders. Any noise over 85 decibels can cause hearing damage. However if you stand near the stage or speakers at a concert or festival the volume can reach 100db. The volume at night clubs and discos regularly reaches 95 decibels and the maximum volume of the average mp3 player is 90 decibels.

So whilst you may protect your ears at work, you could be damaging them on the way home if you crank up the volume on your mp3 player.

This type of hearing loss can happen gradually and won’t be apparent until you struggle to hear people talking when there is background noise. You may get friends and family complaining about having to repeat themselves all the time.

This type of hearing loss is caused by damaged hair cells in the cochlear in the inner ear. When something makes a sound, vibrations in the air are picked up by the eardrum, which vibrates.

These vibrations are amplified by the middle ear bones and sent on to the inner ear.

The cochlear in the inner ear is full of tiny microscopic hair cells and fluid. The fluid moves in response to sound vibrations making the hair cells move. As they move, electrical signals are sent to the auditory nerve and on to the brain. If the fluid moves too quickly it can cause the hair cells to break. Once damaged, these hair cells can no longer transmit sound. They cannot grow back or repair themselves.

This has a cumulative effect, regularly listening to loud music will keep damaging hair cells, so over time and repeated exposure to loud music, more hearing is lost.

Hair cells are also naturally lost through the ageing process. So if the hair cells are already damaged through noise, you will lose your hearing faster as you age.

Sudden and permanent damage can also occur through sudden loud sound, such as having your headphones at full volume when the music starts. If the eardrum or small bones in the middle ear shake too violently they can break. This type of hearing damage is not repairable.

Signs of hearing loss caused by loud music include tinnitus or ringing in the ears. If sound seems quieter or muffled after a concert you may have some hearing damage. If you have any of these symptoms you sound consult your GP immediately.

Your hearing may return to normal after a few days, but some damage will have been done.

Earache after hearing loud noise is also a sign of potential damage to the middle ear or eardrum and you should seek medical advice.

You can protect your hearing by standing away from loud speakers or wearing ear plugs at concerts. Move to quieter areas occasionally for a rest. If you are at a party and people have to shout over the music to be heard, then it’s loud enough to cause hearing damage.

If other people can hear the music on your headphones then your volume is too loud. Try not to use the maximum volume settings on your music player.

Noise cancelling headphones are designed to block out the sound around you, letting you hear your music clearly at a lower volume, and protecting your hearing.

Give your ears a rest by taking breaks from your headphones after an hour or so.

For every three decibels over 85dB the sound intensity doubles. This means that the louder the music, the faster it will cause hearing damage.  Turning the music down just a few decibels can make a huge difference, and save your hearing.