When you were 16 and turned up the radio to full volume, you had little thought about how this might harm your health. You just enjoyed the music.
You had a good time when you were growing up, going to loud concerts and movies. You could have even picked a job where loud noise is the norm. Still, you didn’t think it had any long-term effects.
Now that you’re older and more mature, you more likely know better. Noise-induced hearing impairment can show up in children as young as 12. But did you know that sound is so formidable that it can even be used as a weapon?
Can Sound Make You Ill?
In a word, yes. It’s apparent to scientists and doctors alike that specific sound can make you sick. Here’s the reason why.
How Loud Sound Affects Health
The inner ear can be damaged by really loud sounds. You have tiny hairs that pick up +
vibrations after they pass through the membrane of the eardrum. Once these tiny hairs are damaged, they don’t ever regenerate or heal. This is what causes the sensorineural hearing loss that many people deal with as they age.
Harmful volume starts at 85 decibels for an 8 hour time frame. It only takes 15 minutes for long-term damage to occur at 100 dB. A loud concert is around 120 decibels, which triggers immediate, permanent harm.
Noises can also impact cardiovascular health. Obesity, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and other vascular concerns can be the result of elevated stress hormones brought on by overly loud noise. This could explain the headaches and memory problems that people subjected to loud noise complain about. Cardiovascular health is strongly related to these symptoms.
As a matter of fact, one study confirmed that sound volumes that begin to affect the heart, and hormones are as low a 45 decibels. That’s roughly the volume of someone with a quiet indoor voice.
How Sound Frequency Affects Health
Several years ago, diplomats in Cuba got sick when exposed to sounds. This sound wasn’t at a very high volume. They were able to block it out with a television. So how could this kind of sound make people sick?
The answer is frequency.
High frequency sounds like the one experienced in Cuba can do significant damage at lower volumes.
Does the sound of nails on a chalkboard make you cringe? Have you ever begged a co-worker to stop as they press their fingers across a folded piece of paper? Does the shrill sound of a violin put you on edge?
If you’ve felt the force of high-frequency sounds, the pain you felt was actually damage being done to your hearing. If you experienced this for a time, frequently subjected yourself to it, or were exposed at a high volume, then the damage could have become permanent.
Research has also discovered that damage can be done even if you can’t hear the sound. High-pitched sounds coming from sensors, trains, machinery, and other man-made devices could be producing frequencies that do damage with prolonged exposure.
Your health can also be affected by infrasound which is extremely low frequency sound. It can vibrate the body in such a way that you feel nauseous and disoriented. Some even get flashes of color and light that are typical in migraine sufferers.
Protecting Your Hearing
Be mindful of how you feel about certain sounds. Limit your exposure if specific sounds make you feel pain or other symptoms. If you’re feeling pain in your ears, you’re most likely doing damage.
Have your hearing examined regularly by a hearing specialist to understand how your hearing might be changing over time.