Noise pollution is all around us, especially in the major cities of the world. experiencing this cacophony of sound is often disorienting and fatiguing. From the moment we step out our front door we are bombarded with a cluster of city sounds. Unlike our eyelids, we cannot close our ear canals with similar organs. Rather, we must voluntarily use a device that will reduce the passage of sound into the ear canal – earplugs. It makes you wonder if we had “earlids,” would our hearing be better?
The use of portable music players/Ipods allows us to drown out the sounds of the city. These earbuds and headphones serve two purposes. First, they provide music reproduction for listening pleasure. Second, they passively (and sometimes actively) reduce sound from the surrounding environment. While reducing unwanted noises is welcome, directly injecting sound into your ear can pose some risks.
Although hi-fi speakers can be turned up to ear damaging levels, they have the advantage of not being strapped directly to your ear canal. Even more, speakers produce sound that travels through the air before it reaches your ears. Since air is an excellent absorber of sound, the overall sound pressure level will be reduced before it hits your ear drum. Private listening sessions on headphones and earbuds can be enjoyable, but you must excersice caution not to listen too loudly. A great article on “preventing hearing damage with headphones” can be found here.
Our hearing is an integral tool used for communication, balance, and localization. The human auditory system is truly remarkable and sensitive. An audiologist can advise you on hearing protection options to help maintain the longevity of your hearing.
Photo by: Vahan Baladouni