Ear Damage & ProtectionHow Loud Music Affects Hearing
Music & Acoustics


Ever wonder what it would be like to not be able to hear a bird sing, or trains go by in the distance? Some people do not have these experiences due to hearing loss or damage to the ears. Many musicians suffer from this loss of hearing and damage because of the intensity of their surroundings and a lack of precaution or knowledge of the effects of loud sounds. The ears are very delicate and sensitive. The ears must be treated with utmost care for everybody, but especially for those in a career where hearing counts, such as the music industry. Hearing damage can be prevented very easily, if the necessary precautions are taken. The ear is very sensitive, and some damage may even be permanent. This is way it is important to know how the ears work and how to protect them from long-term and short-term damage.


The structure of the ear is divided into three sections. These sections are the inner ear, the middle ear, and the outer ear. Ears pick up sound waves or vibrations and transmit them to the brain. The pinna, or auricle, is the section of the ear that is outside the skull. The pinna collects sounds and funnels them into the ear canal. Between the ear canal and the middle ear section is the eardrum, or sometimes called the Tympanic Membrane. The eardrum vibrates, like the head of a drum, when sound vibrations from the ear canal strike it.


The middle ear is an air-filled space consisting of three bones, called the ossicles. These three bones are named (in Latin) after items they resemble: Malleus (hammer), Incus (anvil), and stapes (stirrup). The middle ear also contains the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to an area at the back of the nose and mouth. Air enters the middle ear through the Eustachian tube to keep the pressure on the inside of the eardrum the same as the pressure on the outside. The eardrum passes vibrations to ossicles, which vibrate and magnify the sounds.


The last ossicle, the stapes, is connected to the cochlea. The cochlea, part of the inner ear, controls hearing (as opposed to balance, which is controlled by the ear’s ‘labyrinth’). The cochlea is spiral-shaped, like a snail’s shell, and is filled with fluid. Special cells with hair-like fibers line the cochlea. When the stapes transmits vibrations to the fluid in the cochlea, the hair cells are stimulated. These cells then change the stimulation into signals that are sent to the brain by the auditory (hearing) nerve. The brain interprets the signals as sounds.


Hearing impairment occurs if the passage of sound waves from the outside of the head into the ear and on to the brain is interrupted. There are several causes for normal hearing to become impaired. Birth defects, injury, disease, exposure to loud sounds, and aging are all possible catalysts for hearing loss. Some common ear ailments can cause temporary hearing loss. Most of these ailments can be cured, but sometimes it can become permanent if not treated properly.


Mëničre’s Disease is an ailment of the ear. It affects hearing and balance. It is not know what the cause of Mëničre’s Disease is, but some scientists believe it may be a build-up of fluid in the ear’s labyrinth. Some symptoms include dizziness (which may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting), unusual sounds in the ear, and a fluctuating hearing loss that may worsen gradually. Victims of this disease have periods of severe symptoms that can last for minutes, hours, or days. Flare-ups alternate with periods when symptoms disappear, although hearing loss may be permanent. This period can last for a few months or even for several years. Symptoms can be reduced with medication during flare-up times. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary, but is not always successful.


The most common cause of hearing loss is something that surrounds us everyday: noise. Airplanes, trains, sirens, traffic, construction equipment, lawn mowers, motorboats, snowmobiles, video arcade games, etc… all contribute to the ‘noise’ around use everyday that may contribute to hearing loss or damage. Rock concerts and sporting events are at the top of this list. Experts say that 20 millions