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Topic: Do our ears adopt to loud/quiet sound? (Read 4138 times) previous topic - next topic

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  • Brand
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Do our ears adopt to loud/quiet sound?
I was under the impression that after being exposed to loud sound for a while your ears desensitize and you can listen to louder sounds (those that would normally be unbearable) without pain. And vice versa, for louder to quieter, where you'd gradually gain sensitivity.
Similar to how eyes work.
Although I wonder if such loud sounds wouldn't still be bad for hearing (even if they weren't painful at the time).


If this is so, it could be in theory easier to stress test the limits of 16 bit audio's dynamic range: think of an opera with quieter sound at the beginning, then gradually louder sound with the peak loudness (and amplitude) an hour after the beginning. An imaginary scenario that perhaps doesn't exist, but still.



  • DonP
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Do our ears adopt to loud/quiet sound?
Reply #1
I was under the impression that after being exposed to loud sound for a while your ears desensitize and you can listen to louder sounds (those that would normally be unbearable) without pain. And vice versa, for louder to quieter, where you'd gradually gain sensitivity.
Similar to how eyes work.
Although I wonder if such loud sounds wouldn't still be bad for hearing (even if they weren't painful at the time).


If this is so, it could be in theory easier to stress test the limits of 16 bit audio's dynamic range


There is a muscle that tenses to limit motion of the bones in your ear in response to loudness.

  • pawelq
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Do our ears adopt to loud/quiet sound?
Reply #2
There is a muscle that tenses to limit motion of the bones in your ear in response to loudness.


The proper name of this mechanism is acoustic reflex (or stapedial reflex). It has a particular time course: it is too slow to protect from sudden impulse noise, AFAIR it also tapers off when the loud sound continues for a long time.

There is also something called temporary threshold shift - after exposure to loud sounds the hearing sensitivity decreases for some time (hours/days, depending on the level of the TTS-inducing noise). This is not a mechanism I would like to utilize in music listening, as it is a sign of non-permamnent damage to the organ of Corti. With louder sounds or longer durations you will get permanent threshold shift, IOW, hearing loss.
Ceterum censeo, there should be an "%is_stop_after_current%".

Do our ears adopt to loud/quiet sound?
Reply #3
I was under the impression that after being exposed to loud sound for a while your ears desensitize and you can listen to louder sounds (those that would normally be unbearable) without pain. And vice versa, for louder to quieter, where you'd gradually gain sensitivity.
Similar to how eyes work.
Although I wonder if such loud sounds wouldn't still be bad for hearing (even if they weren't painful at the time).


If this is so, it could be in theory easier to stress test the limits of 16 bit audio's dynamic range: think of an opera with quieter sound at the beginning, then gradually louder sound with the peak loudness (and amplitude) an hour after the beginning. An imaginary scenario that perhaps doesn't exist, but still.


Your ears 'desensitizing' is your body's way of telling you you're an idiot. Ears are not like eyes and are more easily damaged permanently. Glasses are a good addition when your lenses need correction. Hearing aids suck in comparison. Don't wreck your ears. You'll regret it.


  • C.R.Helmrich
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Do our ears adopt to loud/quiet sound?
Reply #4
True. I think pain going away when listening to a constant very loud sound is a first sign of hearing loss.

Yes, our hearing maximizes sensitivity if it's subjected to low loudness. However, there's still the frontier of hearing threshold (due to ear-internal noise) and, in case of music playback, the background noise of the recording and the listening environment.

Interestingly, the hearing threshold apparently can be very low if you've never been subjected to typical "acoustic pollution". I read somewhere that Kaspar Hauser, for example, when discovered was reported to have extremely sensitive hearing (being able to understand quiet conversations through walls). Consequently, sounds like people shouting or horses running nearby seem to have been painful to him. So maybe Caspar would have heard the difference between 16 and 24 bits. But given the above frontiers and assuming/hoping none of us grew up in a dark cell, a bit depth of more than 16 probably doesn't make a difference in non-laboratory situations.

G²: Regarding the ability to damage your eyes, I think listening to constant loud sound is like staring into the sun without strong sunglasses. You wouldn't want to do the latter either. Yet every time a solar eclipse comes around, there are reports of people doing precisely that...

Chris
  • Last Edit: 12 March, 2011, 11:22:04 PM by C.R.Helmrich
If I don't reply to your reply, it means I agree with you.

Do our ears adopt to loud/quiet sound?
Reply #5
G²: Regarding the ability to damage your eyes, I think listening to constant loud sound is like staring into the sun without strong sunglasses. You wouldn't want to do the latter either. Yet every time a solar eclipse comes around, there are reports of people doing precisely that...


But seldom any actual evidence. 

By the way strong sunglasses are an utterly terrible idea for looking at the sun.  No sunglass made blocks anywhere near enough light to protect your eyes from a direct view of the sun on a normal day.  a pair that did would would leave you effectively totally blind.  If you can see the world through your sunglasses NEVER look at the sun with them.

Number 14 strength Welder's glass is NASA's recommendation.  Properly aluminized mylar may also be used.  See this link.

Warnings are ubiquitous in the media during these events (which at any one spot are extremely rare in any event) and I have not seen any actual confirmed cases of eye injury during solar eclipses, though it is certainly possible to do so even when the solar disk is 99% or more covered by the lunar disk.

At 100% coverage, on the other hand, it is  perfectly safe to observe a solar eclipse with the naked eye.  Just be quick to look away when the first bit of actual sunlight comes back.

  • Last Edit: 12 March, 2011, 11:56:45 PM by Ed Seedhouse
Ed Seedhouse
VA7SDH

  • C.R.Helmrich
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Do our ears adopt to loud/quiet sound?
Reply #6
Your link doesn't work. I've read about confirmed cases here on the 1999 eclipse (sorry, it's in German). Hundreds of people treated (more than 170 in Munich and Frankfurt alone), at least 3 of them with irreversible injuries (one 18-year old 90% blind).

Chris
  • Last Edit: 13 March, 2011, 12:06:28 AM by C.R.Helmrich
If I don't reply to your reply, it means I agree with you.