Head & Neck

How Harmful is Loud Music on Your Hearing?

written by Becki Andrus
How Harmful is Loud Music on Your Hearing

The thrill and excitement of seeing your favorite band live on stage is an unforgettable experience! But the loud music can be dangerous to your ears, and eventually lead to hearing loss with time. It doesn’t matter if you are exposed to loud music at a concert while driving the car, or in a nightclub… any exposure to loud music can take a toll on your hearing.

How the Ears Send Signals to the Brain

To understand the danger of hearing loss, you first need to know how the ears work. The ears pick up sound waves, which we recognize as music, speech, or other familiar sounds.

The outer ear works as a funnel to move these sound waves through the ear canal so the waves can reach the eardrum. These waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, and the vibrations move to the middle ear where three small bones are located. Then, the bones magnify the vibrations and move these vibrations to the inner ear.

The inner ear (known as the cochlea) has approximately 16,000 hair cells that detect the vibrations. These hairs bend and convert the vibrations to electrical signals, and these messages are sent to the brain through an auditory nerve. When the signal reaches the brain, you interpret the sound vibrations to something that you understand.

Damage in the Ears

Loud noises can damage nerves, membranes, hair cells, and other sensitive parts of the inner ear. If these parts of the ear don’t work in the usual way, then the vibrations don’t move through to send the signals to the brain. It can lead to either a temporary or permanent loss of hearing. Permanent hearing loss occurs when the vital areas of the ears are damaged to the point where they can’t be repaired or recover.

The inner ear is the area that is particularly delicate and affected by loud sounds. When your ears hear these loud noises, the sensitive ear hairs are overworked, and the cells die. As many as 30 – 50% of the hair cells can be damaged before a hearing test can detect the problem. By the time you notice a hearing problem, a large percentage of the cell hairs within your inner ear have been destroyed beyond repair.

What Affects the Risk of Hearing Loss from Loud Music?

A few factors can have an impact on whether loud noises affect your risk of hearing loss. These are a few things that might increase the damage that occurs due to noise exposure:

  • How loud the sound is
  • How close you are to the source of the loud noise
  • The length of time you are exposed to loud sounds
  • The frequency of exposure
  • Length and frequency of time using headphones

Other Causes of Hearing Loss

Even though we are talking about loud music and hearing loss in this article, it is important to understand that your ears can be damaged from other activities as well. Loud music is a common cause of hearing loss, but these issues can also be caused by:

  • Loud machinery
  • Medications
  • Illnesses, such as shingles, meningitis, or measles
  • Diabetes
  • Age
  • Injury
  • Earwax buildup
  • Abnormal growths in the ear
  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Family history

How Quickly is Hearing Damaged?

Have you noticed that your ears seem strange after leaving a loud event, such as a sports game or concert? It is common to feel like the sounds are muffled, or you have a hard time hearing soft noises. Some people experience ringing in the ears after loud events, also known as tinnitus.

In most situations, your normal hearing will return within a few days. The ears can recover from the exposure, which allows you to regain your hearing once again. But some hair cells can die with each exposure. Even after the loud music stops, the damage has been done, and hearing will be affected.

One exposure to loud music can cause hearing loss for some people. Many people don’t notice a problem after their first exposure. But repeated exposure to loud sounds or extremely loud music can cause damage over time, eventually leading to hearing loss. Continued exposure can increase the severity of hearing loss.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

How can you tell if loud noises have damaged your ears? Here are some of the signs that you might notice:

  • You often ask people to repeat themselves because you didn’t hear the words the first time
  • Muffled speech
  • Difficulty deciphering words from background noises
  • Avoiding social settings
  • Always turning up the volume to hear the radio or television

Long-Term Consequences of Hearing Loss

In the early stages of hearing loss, you might notice the symptoms in loud environments. For example, it is common to find that you are unable to understand what other people are saying when there is a lot of noise going on around you. As the hearing loss continues, it becomes more difficult to understand speech in quiet environments as well.

Not only is it inconvenient to experience hearing loss, but these problems can have a domino effect on all areas of your life: relationships, career, driving safety, and more.

How to Protect Your Ears from Noise-Related Hearing Loss

Even though loud noises can result in long-term hearing loss, this problem is easy to avoid if you are proactive about protecting your ears. When you are exposed to loud music or machinery, you must be diligent about minimizing the risk of inner ear damage. Here are a few tips to help:

Limits: Minimize the intensity and duration of loud noise exposure whenever possible. For example, it is smart to take a break from using headphones or listening to music so you can give your ears a rest. Also, turn down the volume to the point where you can hear comfortably without blasting the radio or TV.

 Earplugs: Use quality earplugs or ear muffs when you know you are going to hear loud noises, such as at a concert or in the workplace.

Think Ahead: Concerts aren’t the only location where hearing loss can occur. Be ready with earplugs on hand if you are going hunting, riding an ATV, using power tools, or listening to loud music.

Testing: Regular hearing tests can be beneficial if you are exposed to loud noises regularly. Knowing that you’ve experienced some hearing loss will help you take the necessary steps to prevent additional loss.

Should You See an Ear, Nose Throat Doctor about Hearing Loss?

If you experience a sudden loss of hearing, then it is important that you talk to a local ENT as soon as possible. Additionally, you shouldn’t hesitate to talk to an ENT if you notice that gradual hearing loss is affecting your daily life. It is common to experience hearing loss over time, so you might not notice these symptoms in the beginning. Eventually, you might find that your hearing seems to be affected, which is when you should schedule an appointment.

Not only can the doctor help with a diagnosis, but a personalized treatment plan can be designed to maximize your hearing as much as possible. Identifying the cause of hearing loss is critical to ensure optimal results from the treatment.

Are you located in the North Dallas area? Our team at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat is here to help. Contact us right away to consult with an experienced ENT at one of our convenient locations in Frisco and Plano, TX: (972) 596-4005

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