01 October 2014

Hand driers, French horns and fireworks can cause hearing loss

Loud music and noisy workplaces are well known causes of noise induced hearing loss. But noise induced hearing loss can also derive from more unusual sources such as hand driers, fireworks and musical instruments such as French horns.

The noises around us can cause noise induced hearing loss. Some of the more obvious causes of noise induced hearing loss are that people work in environments with high levels of noise or listen to loud music through headphones or at concerts. But noise induced hearing loss can also occur from other less obvious sources.

Hand driers can be harmful

Hand driers that can be found in public restrooms and many work places are not typically perceived as being harmful. But even though they are quieter now than previously, modern super-fast hand driers can lead to hearing loss, according to a study from University of London.

With a noise level of up to 90dB, prolonged exposure to hand driers can lead to permanent hearing loss. Research shows that super-fast hand driers pass the required safety tests, but that they should not. The reason for this is that the tests are performed in large labs that do not give the same impression of concentrated sound as in a small public restroom.

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Fireworks can lead to hearing loss

The loud sounds from fireworks can cause hearing loss if protection is not used. The noise levels produced by fireworks can reach 150-175dB. The recommendation from World Health Organisation is not to be exposed to more than 140dB of peak sound pressure for adults and 120dB for children.

Hearing loss caused by fireworks can be temporary or permanent and the loud sounds can also lead to tinnitus.

French horn players blowing their hearing away

Professional French horn players work in an environment harmful to their ears and thereby also their careers. An Australian study shows that many French horn players suffer from noise induced hearing loss. Still, less than 1 in 5 of the professional horn players uses ear plugs to protect their ears.

When the French horn players are playing, they are exposed to 81-90dB for up to 48 hours per week.

Loud music damages the nerves in the brain

Music is not only harmful to the musicians but also for the listeners. When listening to music on earphones, we are in danger of damaging the nerves in the brain. Research from the University of Leicester in the UK has found that loud music can have the same effect on brain nerves as multiple sclerosis.

The research is the first to show that nerve cells can be damaged as a result of noise exposure. When nerve fibres are exposed to noise levels higher than 100dB they lose their protective coating, myelin, and as a result the electronic nerve signals are disrupted.

Noise induced hearing loss may be reversible

When a person suffers from noise induced hearing loss the cochlea is damaged. Until now, noise induced hearing loss has been thought to be irreversible, but new research from the Stanford University of Medicine shows that this might not be the case.

The study claims that if treated immediately after being exposed to loud noise, hearing loss might be reversible. The solution is to regenerate lost hair- and nerve cells in the cochlear and to give the right medication right after the noise exposure. With this, researchers hope to be able to limit the damage and reduce noise induced hearing loss.

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