Because sound is not a visible threat, occupational noise is a danger that is often underestimated in the workplace. Injuries such as hearing loss happens gradually and silently, which is vastly different than other hazards encountered on the job. But with nearly 22 million workers exposed to hazardous occupational noise per year, hearing loss is the third most chronic physical condition in the U.S. – and unlike other injuries, once your hearing is gone, it’s not coming back.
To better recognize how harmful noise can be in the short and long term, understanding how the human ear is structured and how our sense of hearing functions can help you see just how important proper hearing protection can be in the workplace, every single day.
Hearing allows us to identify and recognize objects in the world based on the sound they produce, making communication using sound possible. The way your ears perceive sound can affect your health, both in hearing loss and in related issues, which is why hearing protection is so vital.
So how does the ear hear? Hearing depends on a series of complex steps that change sound waves in the air into electrical signals.
All the structures of the ear work together to help you hear, starting from the outside. The outer portion of the ear is formed by the pinna, which is connected directly to the eardrum via the ear canal. The ear canal leads to the eardrum and is connected to the ossicular chain, which consists of three small bones: the malleus, incus, and stapes.
All of these hearing “aids” are located in the middle ear, where the stapes footplate is connected to the oval window of the cochlea. Here, signals are then transmitted to the auditory nerve.
For hearing to be possible, it is important for sound to be modified by passing through air into the inner ear fluid within the cochlea. Since fluids are far denser than air, we would perceive all noise as significantly quieter without this active adjustment.
Here’s how you hear:
This set of events enables us to understand speech and distinguish various letters or words. The way your ears perceive sound can affect your health, both in hearing loss and in related issues, if sounds levels are high enough.
Our hearing is tasked with relaying external noises to our brains so we can respond accordingly. If that function is limited – for example, due to a hearing impairment – this can have unpleasant or even severe consequences both at work and at home. The unfortunate side effect is that hearing loss affects all areas of your life.
Take these examples below:
There are several factors to consider when choosing which earplug technology is right for you, and HexArmor® offers several options for various applications and environments. If you need help choosing the proper type of hearing protection for your application, contact one of our Solutions Specialists today at 1.877.MY.ARMOR or visit www.hexarmor.com.