What happens during Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS)?
You have most likely experienced this after leaving a concert: the noises you hear sound muffled, you notice feelings of fullness in your ears, and you might even hear tinnitus. The tiny hair cells in your ears came in contact with very powerful sound waves. This is known as temporary threshold shift (TTS). Hearing is usually recovered in these cases, and tinnitus goes away.
If you have symptoms of clogged ears or tinnitus, this could mean that your hearing is damaged. If you have recurrent episodes of TTS, permanent hearing loss could ensue.
How does the Ear become Damaged from Loud Noise?
Loud noises, whether it’s from a concert, earbuds with high volume settings, or a work environment, can seriously damage your hearing health. To better understand this, let’s go over how hearing works.
Essentially, sound travels into the ear and then stimulates the fluid located in the inner ear (A.K.A. the cochlea). The fluid produces waves across microscopic rows of hair cells. Every single hair cell is arranged in a tonotopic (tuned) manner to a particular frequency. This provides the best transmission of the sounds you hear.
There is Damage in Your Ear’s Cells
When loud sounds come in contact with your ears, the hair cells become distressed by becoming permanently bent over. This occurs even if there’s no noise. As a result, you may notice tinnitus, feelings of fullness in the ears, and temporary hearing loss.
High sound frequencies are affected when TTS occurs. This impacts the way you hear consonant sounds. In the English language, you may not be able to hear the difference between certain words, like “car” or “far”. This is an example of being able to hear, but not understand.
When it comes to TTS, your hearing threshold will recover to normal after a brief period.
Is TTS Serious?
The answer to this question isn’t clear-cut, because it’s a short-term symptom and for some people, things may seem normal for a while.
Even if the hearing loss is temporary, it’s not an excuse to regularly attend concerts, work environments, or loud recreational activities without protecting your hearing. If you experience too many instances of TTS, it may turn into a permanent threshold shift (PTS).
If you only experience TTS once, you probably won’t have permanent damage to your hearing.
Why does TTS Happen?
Overexposure to loud noises causes TTS. Concerts are a major culprit. Being near the speakers at a concert can endanger your ears to 110 decibels (dB).
It only takes over 70 dB to induce hearing loss. TTS is a type of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), but its impact is fleeting.
Other circumstances that can cause TTS are exposure to loud noises, like listening to music through earbuds/headphones, fireworks or an explosion that goes off near you, a gas-powered lawnmower, or an ambulance/police car siren.
How long can TTS Last?
TTS is a temporary symptom that can last anywhere from a couple of hours, a few days, or maybe several weeks.
The longer and more intense the exposure is, the stronger and longer-lasting the TTS could be.
Other influences could make an impact, such as an individual’s age, sex, history of noise exposure, frequented environmental settings, smoking, or diabetes.
How do You know when an Area is Too Loud?
Preventative Measures for TTS
It is unlikely that TTS will occur unexpectedly. The only cause is exposure to loud noise, so avoid these loud areas or be prepared to protect yourself.
It sounds simple but in the modern world, you may encounter many unexpected situations that could be a danger to your hearing. Loud machines or movie theaters can reach anywhere between 74 to 104 dB. You can still enjoy the movies by wearing earplugs that tune out most, but not all noises.
For earplugs that cancel out almost all noises, get earplugs that feature the highest noise reduction rating (NRR). If you are going to watch a movie in the theater, you can try earplugs that are designed for musicians.
If you are noticing hearing loss and need a hearing test, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a complimentary hearing test and consultation. Any hearing loss should be tested and reviewed by a professional
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