The Effects Of Acoustic Over Stimulation

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Basic aspects of acoustic trauma are presented. Exposure to loud noise leads to an acoustic traumatization with a temporary threshold shift initially and, with increasing exposure, intensity and duration, a permanent hearing loss. Impulse sound such as hammer blows on metal, gun shots and other detonations reaching peak levels of 160 to 180 dB is particularly hazardous to the inner ear. Playing loud musical instruments such as trumpets or percussion may also lead to hearing damage.

Less dangerous than often believed is listening to electronically amplified music with walkmen, at discos or rock concerts. The reason is that, while the sound level is quite high, the particularly dangerous sound peaks are absent, as loudspeakers usually have an output limit of 110-120 dB. Traffic noise (cars, trains, air planes) is usually not threatening to the ear, but it may represent a considerable subjective annoyance and a stress factor leading to psychosomatic disturbances (neurovegetative symptoms, sleeping disorders). An effective treatment for the acoustic trauma is still missing.

The systematic and consequent prophylaxis either with individual ear protectors (plugs or ear muffs) or by reducing the noise level at the source by means of isolation, encapsulation, or by using motors that are less noisy remains very important. Increasing awareness of acoustic pollution and preventive means have led to a reduction in the incidence of the acoustic trauma in the last decades.

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