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How the Ear Works and Why Loud Sounds Cause Hearing Loss

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The auditory system has been designed to detect sound at the lowest possible intensity: vibrations am detected that have magnitudes of the order of molecular distances. To do this, a number of specialisations have been employed. The outer ear enhances sounds in the middle frequency range by means of resonance. The middle ear acts as an impedance transformer ensuring efficient transmission of sound into the inner ear, where the vibrations are further enhanced by a positive feedback of energy. This results in a very highly sensitive system that performs a fine spectral analysis of incoming sound for transmission to the brain. There are mechanisms that protect the ear from loud sounds, but excessive sound levels cause damage to the inner ear structures. This damage may result from mechanical or metabolic effects resulting in either a temporary or a permanent hearing loss.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society