who risks noise pollution the most

More or less 12 out of 100. According to the EuroTrak Ita 2022 research, many people in Italy suffer from hearing loss. Be careful though. Often this problem does not turn into the search for a solution. This is stated by the data from the same survey, according to which only just over 4% of people in our country use hearing aids, with a growth trend that is nevertheless significant with the Covid-19 pandemic. All this, considering that always on the basis of research use of hearing aids improve the quality of life, listening situations, limiting the risk of a person feeling marginalized due to hearing loss or in any case becoming more confident in moving around, giving up less on their social life. Why feeling good also means feeling better. And not only in terms of the ability to hear sounds and words, but also in terms of global physical and psychological well-being.

How heavy hearing pollution is and why it facilitates presbycusis

Between horns honking in traffic, loud disco music, headphones that play your favorite notes directly into your ear for hours, our hearing can go into crisis. Suffice it to say that exposure to noises above 90 decibels for eight hours a day, in practice a threshold that defines loud noise such as the siren of a passing ambulance, can cause permanent hearing loss over the years. Furthermore, if you live in a particularly noisy area, lhearing pollution can interfere with the quality of sleep and can also lead to alterations in blood circulation, increasing the dangers to heart health.
The ear optimally perceives a range of sound intensities between 50 and 65 decibels – the so-called comfortable audibility level – which corresponds to the intensity of normal conversational voice; very soft sounds equal to 5-10 decibels are perceptible only in soundproofed environments, while sounds with an intensity of 80-90 decibels are perceived as loud.
Noise can cause a harmful effect on the internal hair cells (inner ear) and progressively lead to deafness, depending on the intensity and time of exposure: exposure to noises above 90 decibels for eight hours a day, for many years, causes a permanent hearing loss. Continuous exposure to excessive environmental noise, although not directly traumatic for the ear, can also lead to alterations in the state of health (extra-auditory effects of noise). For example, if noise interferes with rest and the quality of sleep – even with noise levels lower than 80 decibels – stress and cardiovascular alterations may occur.

Don't overdo the music

Naturally, if the sound pressure levels are very high, the risk of trauma even for exposures limited in time is higher. In addition to noise, noise plays an important role synergy between sound rhythms and light impulsesi, as controlled reactions are activated in the brain which, depending on the frequency, can modify reaction times to external stimuli. To avoid psychosomatic and audiological damage, it is therefore advisable to at least alternate exposure to high-level sound with “decompression” breaks from auditory stress. However, excessive exposure to music can temporarily compromise the hearing system, when warning signs such as: temporary decrease in hearing, appearance of whistling or “tinnitus” And feeling of dizziness. This risk is more easily run, sometimes causing irreversible consequences, when listening with headphones: in this case the sound pressure level can exceed 110 decibels and the exposure times are often several hours a day.

What is presbycusis

In short. In this era of sounds to which we are exposed, it risks becoming progressively more difficult to hear the voices of those around us, or you should always turn up the volume on the television to follow your favorite programme. These are some of the signs of presbycusisan almost physiological problem for those over 60 but certainly accentuated by the noise of daily life.
What happens in these cases? What is defined is altered comfortable level of audibility (between 50 and 65 decibels), which corresponds to the intensity of normal conversational voice. So the speaker must increase the volume to be heard.

The problem is that hearing loss is disabling for those who suffer from it, also affecting the quality of life. You have difficulty understanding and conversing with family and friends, you listen to less radio and TV, in short, you isolate yourself. This is how they take risks social isolation and loss of interests and activities, as well as loss of self-esteem to the point of developing a depressive mood disorder. The inability to understand caused by hearing loss is the most serious and under-estimated condition and presents apparent cognitive disorders such as memory, attention, verbal understanding up to an apparent state of confusion. For example, those who feel little are more likely to falland fractures of the femur.

Audiometry, what it can say and how it is done

The important thing is not to underestimate that loss of hearing which should act as an alarm signal, and often we do not undergo the necessary checks. Yet a simple test would suffice, audiometry, to begin to understand that something isn't working. The exam takes a few minutes and is carried out in a special acoustically insulated cabin to avoid the impact of environmental noise. The person who performs it wears a pair and reports to the examiner whether or not he hears the acoustic stimulus sent. The purpose of the exam is evaluate the value of the minimum perceived intensitythe so-called hearing threshold, a parameter that lowers significantly in older people.

The delay between the appearance of the first symptoms and the diagnosis of presbycusis can vary from eight to twenty years. Focusing on early diagnosis and prevention is therefore essential. This was recalled by the experts present at the Otolaryngology Congress entitled “The future in listening”, organized by the Italian Society of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. Also reporting how, alongside prevention and oncological treatments, progress is being made in surgical rehabilitation of deafness.
“Today – explains Giovanni Danesi, president of the Congress – with a reasonably early diagnosis and specialist assistance, no one is condemned to remain deaf. This means that deafness is reversible. Today we can, obviously with effort and a long rehabilitation process, make those who have lost their hearing hear again.”

It is important to overcome barriers

The consequences of mild and medium deafness, in the majority of adults, are aggravated due to a strong psychological component that this pathology brings with it: subjects suffering from hearing loss often they refuse to associate the disorder with deafness and especially to wear the hearing aid. By not being identified early and treated, the effects of deafness tend to worsen.
For this reason, attention to the patient's psychology is the first step towards the success of prosthetic therapy: the patient must be self-motivated and aware of your hearing problem. It is therefore essential to encourage the elderly to undergo hearing tests in a clinical environment, as well as educate and inform their families on the psycho-attitudinal consequences of hearing isolation and above all on the possibilities of intervening with medical or rehabilitation treatments. Once the hearing impairment has been diagnosed, the patient must be started on one correct prosthetic therapy and compatible with the needs and limitations of old age, remembering that there are personalized prosthetic solutions suited to the individual audiological and environmental situation.

Attention to all ages

However, limiting the problem of hearing loss to the elderly only can be reductive. Exposure to the roar of a jet taking off causes us to experience 130 decibels or even a simple loud music device provides a high stimulus to the ear, so almost all of us are exposed to the risk of noise pollution. Furthermore, the statistics say that you can become deaf at any age, you can be born deaf or become deaf in the first months or years of life. In short: the problem of hearing loss does not only concern adults. The incidence of cases of deafness in newborns is approximately 1 per 1000, a percentage which in newborns hospitalized in intensive care units reaches 5%. In addition to the hearing deficit, the child suffers serious consequences in the learning of verbal language and in psychological-cognitive development, just as hearing loss can also be the result of repeated inflammation of the middle ear which determines a progressive destruction of the ossicles of the tympanic cavity or chronic infections that cause, in the long run, damage to the eardrum and tympanic cavity. Discovering the picture early is essential: thanks to technology and rehabilitation there is a real possibility of detect deafness at birthto intervene early and educate the child like a normal hearing child.

How the ear is made

To understand how significant these conditions can be, it is necessary to remember that the ear contains the focal points of two different “senses” of the human body: hearing and balance control.
Starting from the outside, in this anatomical “journey”, we first encounter the external ear: it is a flap of cartilage which forms the border of a duct just under three centimeters long. This canal is dotted with hairs and glands that produce earwax, a substance that stops germs and grains of dust from entering inside.
The middle ear, on the other hand, is full of air and represents a fundamental chain for the transmission of sounds. In fact, sound waves, in the presence of a noise, cause the three small bones to vibrate (hammer, anvil and stirrup)which carry the vibrations up to the small oval window, the passageway to the innermost part of the organ.
Finally, in the inner ear is the snail, similar to a piano keyboard, which has the task of transforming sounds into nervous signals, which will then be decoded by the brain. In fact, at this point the journey of the sound stimulus towards the auditory area begins, an area of ​​the nervous system specifically involved in this sense.