How Do Loud Noises Cause Hearing Loss


Loud noise can damage many parts of the human ear including hair cells, nerves, membranes, and other parts. It can lead to either temporary or permanent loss of hearing. Here is what you need to know about hearing loss due to loud noises so that you can prevent it.

Hearing Loss Can Be Temporary or Permanent

Hearing loss is described as a decrease in one’s ability to hear and understand speech and sounds around him/her. It occurs when any part of the ear or the nerves that carry sound information to the brain doesn’t work properly. While some cases of hearing loss are temporary, the condition becomes permanent when vital parts of the ear are damaged beyond repair. In fact, damage to any single part of the ear can result in hearing loss over time.

Loud noise can be quite harmful to the cochlea or the inner ear. Listening to loud noises regularly or a one-time exposure to extremely loud noises can lead to hearing loss. Loud noise will damage the membranes and cells in the inner ear. In fact, when you listen to loud noises for long periods of time, it overworks the hair cells in the ear causing the cells to die over time. The hearing loss will progress as long as the exposure to loud noises continues. In fact, the harmful effects can continue even after the exposure to loud noises has stopped. On the other hand, damage to the auditory neural system or the inner ear is usually permanent. If you are based in the London area see here for noise surveys in London.

Damaged Hair Cells in Your Ears Lead to Hearing Loss

The average individual has about 16,000 hair cells in the cochlea. These cells play an important role in the inner ear by allowing the brain to detect sounds. At least 30-50% of these hair cells should be damaged before any changes in your hearing loss can be measured by a test. In fact, by the time you notice a loss in your hearing, too many hair cells might have been destroyed which cannot be repaired.

As soon as you leave a loud event such as a football game or a concert, you may feel that you can’t hear as before. You may hear a ringing in the ear or not hear whispers after such an event. This is normal and considered to be a temporary hearing loss that returns after a few hours or days. This happens due to the hair cells in the ear-bending more when the sound is loud. But the hair cells will straighten up once again after a recovery period.

But if loud noise is able to damage too many hair cells in the ear, some of the cells will die as a result. Repeated exposure to loud noise will destroy too many hair cells over time. It will reduce your ability to hear and understand speech in a noisy place. If hearing loss continues, you may find it difficult to understand speech even in a quiet place.

Noise Can Damage Nerves in Your Ears

Noise damages the auditory nerve that carries information to the brain in addition to damaging the hair cells in the ear. Early damage may not be detected in a hearing test. It can result in “hidden hearing loss” which makes it difficult for you to understand speech in a noisy place. Loud noise can affect how well you may hear later in life. It affects how quickly you develop a hearing issue even after the exposure has been stopped.

How Do We Hear?

We hear sounds due to the sound waves or vibrations that reach the ear. We will then recognise these vibrations as speech, music, and other sounds.

Outer Ear

The part of the ear that you see funnels sound waves into the canal of the ear. The waves will travel through the canal to reach the eardrum.

Middle Ear

The eardrum will vibrate according to the sound waves and send the vibrations to the tiny bones in the middle ear.