Hearing Loss, Its Causes and Prevention

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One of the less frequently asked questions, for obvious reasons which is it is something seem to be not so vital. Until it happens to you which will be too late. I can confidently say I am very fortunate to be part of the masses that were taught and enlightened about hearing loss at a young age, of which I still wish I knew about it way earlier. As an aspiring sound engineer studying at an Academy of Sound Engineering, in one of first year industry lectures we were visited by a qualified Audiologist. An Audiologist is a licensed healthcare professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating hearing, balance and tinnitus disorders. We shall discuss further about the disorders as we go along with the content. The experience was very enlightening and the information presented to us was very helpful. Since the day I was enlightened about hearing loss I became more cautious about my hearing especially in a music environment. Hellen Keller once said “Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people”.

Hearing loss is when your ability to hear is reduced. A hearing loss makes it more difficult for you to hear speech and other sounds. Like any other diseases hearing loss is very dangerous. Experiencing hearing loss feels like the world is fading away but it is actually getting louder day by day. Think about couple of centuries back when people could hear themselves think wherever they are compared to now whereby you have to spend a fortune to find a quiet, peaceful place to hear yourself think. What I am trying to prove is the fact that the land is filled with distractive noise pollution. Noise pollution that does not only affect humans but all living species.

Hearing loss have a lot of various causes. Noise is a common cause, depending on the filled you are most exposed to. You can be more exposed to live music environment like outdoor or indoor music festivals, Mining and factory industry, where you find big machines being operated. International airports, where enormous aeroplanes are based; being in the city more frequent. Age is considered as a natural cause of hearing loss of which is beyond our control. As we grow our hearing ability worsens in our 40s and onwards and when we reach our 80s, more than half of us suffer from significant hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is also called as Presbycusis.

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As an aspiring sound engineer and musician I believe that my hearing is my highly valuable asset, without my hearing there is no future in these industry, yes it is arguable, I believe a thesis can be compiled on making music with hearing loss. In audio industry 99 percent of the work is based on hearing hence the word “audio” suggests. You find live sound engineering where a sound engineering operates the sound from front of sound and they compelled to be active at all times, therefore they are exposed to high amount sound for consecutive house of the show. It runs down to being in a studio as a producer, broadcaster or post production where there is not much of noise compared to live sound environment, but you get to be exposed to the same sounds constantly for the time you are active on a project.

Tinnitus are one of the symptoms audio technicians, musicians and audience experience after being in loud music environment. Tinnitus is the constant hearing of a sound when there is no sound present. Some describes it as a ringing sound, a hiss, or a high pitch tone. Tinnitus is caused by either a single extremely loud sound or by loud sounds over a period of time. You can imagine how sound engineers stand a chance to be attacked by tinnitus multiple times. Using earplugs is the best solution to this adverse situation. “Noise induced hearing loss”, according to my point this is one of the statements taken for granted till you notice the following symptoms of hearing loss: missing words, TV or radio volume louder than usual, blocked feeling in ears, struggling to hear in noisy environment, tinnitus. There are different types of hearing loss. A hearing loss can be sensorineural which results from damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. Presbycusis is a type sensorineural hearing loss.

A conductive hearing loss is where the ears’ ability to conduct sound from the outer ear through the middle ear into the inner ear is blocked or reduced. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of a conductive hearing loss and a sensorineural hearing loss which results to having a difficulty to conducting sound to the inner ear, and the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged at the same time, of which in my point and experience it happens rarely. A hearing loss can also be a bilateral hearing loss or a single-sided hearing loss. As the word bilateral suggests it simply means you can experience hearing loss in both ears and single-sided hearing is experiencing hearing loss in one ear also know as unilateral hearing loss. Hearing loss impacts our emotional well-being. I mean you can imagine when we hear our best, there is nothing stopping us from enjoying the sounds of laughter, music, nature or conversation with family and friends. These sounds help us, and undeniably make moments more memorable and life more enjoyable.

Can hearing loss be prevented? We live in a society which noice is a natural part of everyday life, irregardless whether bad or good, and with our ears being such delicate organs, we must take of them. Yes, hearing loss can be prevented. Using earplugs as mentioned earlier on is one of the most effective prevention reason being it reduce noice by 20 to 30 dB. Bare in mind the threshold of human hearing is 0 dB up to 130 dB. We are even exposed to noise in our home, but a few precautions and changes can make all the difference, for example installing carpets, upholstered, furniture, curtains and other soft materials can absorb the worst of the noise. The challenge hearing loss presents to someone who pursuing a career in sound engineering is the fact that they will loose almost every detail of the event.

All the way from communicating with the team, to operating the sound, for example in a live music environment, it will be hard to hear from the front of house which will result to increasing audio level above the required maximum level of which might sabotage the whole event. Robert Frost once said “The ear is the only true writer and only true reader”. It will smart of us to take good care of our hearing to be able to hear the first words of our grandchildren. It will be smart of us to work on reducing noise for the sake of noise pollution and all the living species in our planet. Let us consult with our nearest audiologist to find out about our hearing status.

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