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Echo Barrier Blog

The science behind sound

Posted by Tom Peary on Dec 3, 2019 12:00:00 AM | Acoustic Barriers|Noise Reduction

We all know that noise pollution is a problem (have a read of the blogs on our website to find out more) but what is the science behind it? To mark British Science Week we have done some scientific research to find out more about noise levels and how loud noise can cause more than just a headache.

Noise is an important part of our lives and we hear millions of different sounds per day. But hearing is something that many of us take for granted. Hearing loss is a common issue in the UK. In fact, 12 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss, which means that around one in six of us are missing out on certain sounds.

What does it mean if you suffer from hearing loss? It depends on how severely your ears are affected. Someone who does not suffer from any hearing loss can typically hear sounds from 0 to 140dB. If you have mild hearing loss then you won’t be able to hear sounds below 30 or 40 decibels so, for example, a whisper or the sound of rustling leaves would be too quiet for your ears to process. Moderate hearing loss is slightly more severe and those who suffer will not be able to hear sounds below 50 and 70 decibels. This can make it difficult to hear conversations – particularly in a noisy area like a café or a restaurant where there is background noise.

How do our ears work? Our ears are made up of three parts: the outer, the middle and inner ear. Sound waves are gathered outside the outer ear and they travel through the ear canal to the eardrum. The sound waves cause the ear drum to vibrate which enables the three tiny bones called the ossicles (the malleus, incus and stapes) in the middle ear to begin working. These vibrations cause the ossicles to move backwards and forwards which passes sound waves through to the inner ear. Once the sound waves enter the inner ear, this is where the hearing nerve sends electrical signals to the brain which recognises them as different sounds.

How to protect your hearing Looking after your ears and minimising their exposure to loud sounds is vital to reduce the risk of suffering from hearing loss in later life. Listening to music too loud, standing next to speakers at festivals and concerts or operating loud machinery without using ear protection can be extremely damaging. Even though it’s impossible to keep away from noise, it’s important to allocate some time to enjoy some peace and quiet. So instead of putting your headphones every time it’s quiet, try sitting in silence every now and again – your ears will thank you for it, especially in later life! Don’t forget to consider your neighbours too. Our acoustic barriers provide temporary noise solutions which are successful in reducing noise energy by up to 97%. So if you’re planning to do some building work, beginning a demolition project or arranging an event, take a look at our website.

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