February 18, 2011

Dear Ears, I'm sorry. Love, Ge

Both my parents snore SOOOO LOUD that I grew up thinking it was the normal way grown-ups breathe when they’re asleep. The first time I encountered a grown-up sleeping without funny sounds coming out of her nose, I actually thought she was dead.

I suppose hearing people snore loudly at night should be bothersome, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve become so habituated that I don’t even notice anymore. I can sleep soundly all night no matter how many decibels the snores around me are.

My boyfriend snores too. He once fell asleep on the couch while I was studying for an exam, and he snored so loudly I actually wondered if the sounds were coming from the construction work going on next door. I guess it’s a good thing snores don’t bother me, or I might’ve failed that exam… or broken up with my boyfriend. HAHA.

This week in class, we learned about noise-induced hearing loss, or hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds. The first thing that came to my mind about this concept was how my mom always tells me I might end up damaging my eardrums if I don’t decrease the volume of my iPod when I listen to music. So I looked it up online and found that with the popularity of mp3 players these days, premature hearing loss caused by constantly listening to excessively loud music has become an important issue. So fine, I acknowledge that my mom was right about lowering the volume on my iPod, but yesterday I came across and even more interesting study. 

A group of researchers from Canada wanted to explore noise-induced hearing loss in people who snore as well as their bed partners. Using behavioral audiograms and otoacoustic emission testing, severely loud snoring participants ranging from 35 to 55 years old and their respective bed partners were tested for hearing. As it turns out, the snorers themselves did not experience any significant noise-induced hearing loss, but interestingly, their bed partners did! And what’s more, the ear that exhibited hearing loss was always the ear they reported was most often exposed to their partner’s snoring.

Now, I can’t help but wonder…
1.   Has my constant exposure to loud music and loud snores already affected my hearing? Maybe the “habituation” is actually already a sign of noise-induced hearing loss :(
2.   The study shows the effect when one partner snores and the other doesn’t, but what happens when BOTH bed partners snore simultaneously, like my parents? It seems to me like the dynamics would be different. I wonder how their hearing would be affected.
3.   How can I get the people around me to stop snoring?

I guess it’s time I pay more attention to taking care of my ears. I love music so much, I never want to lose my sense of hearing :( I think its easy to take our ears for granted because we don’t usually feel or see anything wrong with them. But its important to remember that the effects of what we expose our ears will probably manifest in the future, even if we don’t feel anything now.

Also, I have to get my mom, dad and boyfriend to see this video asap.

Sardesai, M. G., Tan, A. K. W., & Fitzpatrick, M. (2003). Noise-induced hearing loss in snorers and their bed partners. Journal of Otolaryngology. 32, 141-145.

Spencer, J. (2006, Jan 10). Behind the music: iPods and hearing loss. The Wall Street Journal, p. D1.

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