Archive for April 1975

Are Earphones Harmful to Your Ears?   Leave a comment

I don’t know how you came here as you read it on social media, twitter, facebook, google +, stumble upon or anywhere else. But thank you for visiting and I trust you like reading this as much as I did.

Actually the answer is yes, headphones can be very damaging to your ears.

A team from the University of Leicester recently proved that noises louder than 110 decibels cause damage to a special type nerve cell coating, which in turn can cause tinnitus (basically a buzzing or whining in the ears – and here’s me thinking that it just made things sound ‘a bit tinny’) and even temporary deafness in some cases.

According to medical news today.com, who reported on the University’s findings, the myelin sheath is a type of coating that covers the nerve cells that connect the ears with the brain. Any noise over 100 decibels begins to wear away this coating, meaning that the signals will eventually stop reaching the brain. Given time, the myelin sheath will usually (but not always) heal itself and reform, resulting in the damage only being temporary. Still, it is something to think about.

As for more permanent damage, well, the facts are actually startling. According to TIME magazine’s Laura Blue,

“Hearing loss is more common than ever before. About 16% of American adults have an impaired ability to hear speech, and more than 30% of Americans over age 20 — an estimated 55 million people — have lost some high-frequency hearing”.

These shocking statistics were put forward in the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ journal and first published in 2008. Following this publication, Blue interviewed Brian Fligor, who was, at the time, the director of diagnostic audiology at Children’s Hospital Boston. In the interview, Fligor said,

“If you’re using the earbuds that come with an iPod and you turn the volume up to about 90% of maximum and you listen a total of two hours a day, five days a week, our best estimates are that the people who have more sensitive ears will develop a rather significant degree of hearing loss — on the order of 40 decibels (dB). That means the quietest sounds audible are 40 dB loud. Now, this is high-pitched hearing loss, so a person can still hear sounds and understand most speech. The impact is going to be most clearly noted when the background-noise level goes up, when you have to focus on what someone is saying. Then it can really start to impair your ability to communicate”.

So, the question now becomes, what can you do to lower the risk?

Sam Costello of About.com suggests turning down the volume, which is reasonably obvious, really. However, (s)he also suggests accessing the ‘volume control’ on your iPod or device and lowering the maximum volume setting (synch it to the computer for more such options), as well as listening for shorter periods of time and switching from earbuds to ‘over the ear’ phones. Earbuds are the most dangerous headphone type, apparently.

Just for the record, the average American iPod can generate about 115 decibels, which is equivalent to attending a reasonably loud rock concert (although not a Motorhead gig obviously – now that’s a band which almost guarantees absolute deafness for a least a few days afterwards, trust me).

However, the good news is that if you’re in the EU, your iPod is limited to 100db maximum output by law. Even though you are still at risk if you turn the volume all the way up and listen to it all day long, that risk is considerably less on our side of the pond.

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Posted April 27, 1975 by ferdinandpuckett in Uncategorized

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Here one for you, why do People Hate the Sound of Their Own Voice When They Hear a Recording of it?   Leave a comment

For years people have been telling me that family, love and happiness are the crucial things in life…These days I realise that I can take or leave all that so long as I have this radio accessory in the world.

Hi Jean-Paul,

This question reminds me of that episode of ‘Family Guy’ where Lois hears her voice on tape for the first time and unhappily remarks that she sounds “all whiny and nasal”, this is, of course, an in-joke for the fans watching at home, because Lois does actually sound like that. However, it is a feeling that most of us can relate to.

The sad truth is that, when you hear your voice on tape, you really do sound like that. Sure, the sound is slightly distorted by whatever microphone recorded it, but not to a great extent. You watch police car sirens on TV and then you hear them in real life and the difference isn’t huge, is it?

So, why is this?

Effectively, when you begin to speak aloud, you automatically trigger your pre-vocalization reflex, which is, effectively, a contraction of the muscles in your inner ear (particularly around your ossicles and your ear drum, which are two of the most important pieces for hearing). The end result is a tightening of the tympanic membrane, which dulls the sound of your own voice, causing the familiar, pleasing sound that you only think is the way your voice sounds to others.

So, you are hearing yourself without the dampening effect of the pre-vocalization reflex, which is unfamiliar to you.

The other reason that you may be inclined to hate the sound of your own voice when played back from a recording is probably psychological. Its only a pet theory of mine, but if the voice you hear is different to you and yet still recognizable as you, its a bit like getting an extreme new haircut when you aren’t prepared for it – its a challenge to self image. This actually causes a bit of a dilemma for the psyche, which is probably why it makes us so uncomfortable.

This may also go some way towards explaining that friend you have (everybody has one) who labours under the delusion that they can sing, when they actually have (to quote Billy Connolly) “a voice like a goose farting in the fog”.

Hope that helps, Jean-Paul, (it was a very good question, by the way), cheers!

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Posted April 12, 1975 by ferdinandpuckett in Uncategorized

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