When you were a teenager and cranked up the radio to full volume, you had little thought about how this could damage your health. You simply enjoyed the music.
You had a good time when you were growing up, going to the movies and loud concerts. It might even be common for you to have experienced loud noise at work. Lasting health problems were the furthest thing from your mind.
You probably know differently today. Children as young as 12 can have permanent noise-induced hearing impairment. But did you realize that sound is so powerful that it can even be used as a weapon?
Can You Get Ill From Sound?
In short, yes. Particular sounds can evidently make you sick according to doctors and scientists. This is why.
How Health is Affected by Loud Noise
The inner ear can be damaged by extremely loud sounds. After sound goes through the membrane of the eardrum it’s picked up by little hairs in the ears. These hairs never regenerate once they are damaged. This is what causes the sensorineural hearing loss that many people deal with as they age.
Harmful volume starts at 85 decibels over an 8 hour time frame. If you’re exposed to over 100 dB, lasting impairment occurs within 15 minutes. A rock concert is around 120 decibels, which brings about immediate, permanent damage.
Cardiovascular health can also be impacted by noise. Subjection to loud noise can boost stress hormones, which can contribute to clogged arteries, obesity, high blood pressure, and more. This might explain the memory and headache issues that people subjected to loud noise complain about. These are strongly linked to cardiovascular health.
Sound as low as 45 decibels can, as reported by one study, begin to have an impact on your hormones and your heart. That’s around the volume of a person with a quiet inside voice.
How Sound Frequency Affects Health
A few years ago, diplomats in Cuba became sick when exposed to sounds. This sound wasn’t at a really loud volume. It could even be drowned out by a television. How could it have made people ill?
Frequency is the answer.
Even at lower volumes, significant harm can be done by certain high-frequency sound.
Does the sound of nails on a chalkboard make you cringe? Have you ever pleaded with a co-worker to stop as they press their fingers over a folded piece of paper? Does the shrill sound of a violin put you on edge?
If you’ve felt the force of high-pitched sounds, the pain you felt was in fact damage happening to your hearing. The damage may have become irreversible if you’ve subjected yourself to this kind of sound repeatedly for longer time periods.
Research has also found that you don’t even need to be able to hear the sound. High-frequency sounds emanating from trains, sensors, machinery, and other man-made devices might be producing frequencies that do damage with too much exposure.
Very low-frequency sound known as “infrasound” can also affect your health. The vibrations can make you feel disoriented and physically sick. Some people even get migraine symptoms like flashes of color and light.
Safeguarding Your Hearing
Be aware of how you feel about certain sounds. If you’re feeling pain or other symptoms when you’re exposed to certain sounds, reduce your exposure. If you’re experiencing pain in your ears, you’re most likely doing damage.
Get your hearing checked regularly by a hearing specialist to understand how your hearing may be changing over time.