Temptations are all around us. If you’re an adult in this country, you’re expected to know which things are not good for you and you make personal decisions about those things, for which you will ultimately be accountable.
Not accountable to anyone else, per se, unless you believe in a religion, but what I mean is that the effects of your choices will eventually show up in your life, positive or negative.
Temptations tend to center around negative things that are fun in the moment. It can be fun to smoke weed, but if you do that all the time, you become less useful, exciting or interesting to other people. If you eat nothing but sugar and drink energy drinks all day, you might be able to handle it for a while, but eventually you could gain a lot of weight.
One that’s less understood is listening to music too loudly. Each year, I try to write at least one column about the dangers of loud listening and irreversible hearing loss. Usually I focus on in-ear monitors as a modern culprit of hearing loss, as these tiny earbuds are stuck in the ear, creating a vacuum seal and applying gobs of unnecessary pressure on your eardrums.
With this column, however, I want to dive a little deeper about how hearing loss happens. Last week, I recalled an audiophile friend who wears two hearing aids. It is uncanny how he can pick out subtle nuances in the music with his aids in the mix. But it is not strange how he got his hearing loss in the first place.
It’s pretty common to see retired members of the military wearing hearing aids, because explosions, gunshots and — in my friend’s case — ship-mounted cannons tend to be LOUD AF. Our armed forces have become extremely cautious about hearing loss in the decades since my friend served, but some danger still exists for servicemen and women.
If you think about a cannon blast, the first sound quality you might imagine would be bass — lots of it. But an explosion carries lots of frequencies, and it’s the other, higher ones that are more immediately dangerous to our hearing system.
Most folks know the eardrum sits at the end of the canal and forms a barrier to the inside of your head. Directly behind it is a group of small bones which translate the vibrations in air to vibrations in the fluid in your inner ear.
The “cochlea,” a term you might remember from school, is a snail-shaped thing full of goo and hairs. As you go down the spiraling tunnel in the cochlea, the hairs in each section correlate to specific sections of the sound spectrum we can hear.
Lesser known is the fact that there are two openings to the cochlea, where the sound vibrations go directly from the ear bones to reach the hairs without traveling down the tunnel. These two openings, and the groups of hairs directly exposed to them, explain why much hearing loss occurs at specific common frequencies. We’ll learn how to avoid the most common damage as we wrap up this important topic next week.