What the Sound of Metal Got Right & Wrong About Hearing Loss

Directed by Darius Marder, the Sound of Metal portrays a heavy-metal drummer’s life that is thrown into free fall when he begins to lose his hearing. The award-winning Sound of Metal is based on Derek Cianfrance’s unfinished docufiction called Metalhead. 

In the movie, we watch as Ruben— a recovering addict and career punk drummer— battles raging frustrations associated with the sudden and rapid loss of his hearing. As a part of his recovery, Ruben considers the possibilities of committing to a life in a communal co-op for the deaf or re-entering the world with cochlear implants.

While Ruben does achieve an elusive level of self-awareness and self-actualization near the end of the movie, we want to focus on the stuff in between. Specifically, let’s take a closer look at a few key points the Sound of Metal got right and wrong about hearing loss. Read on to learn more, but don’t hesitate to reach out to North Shore Hearing P.C. today to schedule a free hearing screening

Can Consistent Noise Cause Hearing Loss? 

Yes. Loud noise can and will lead to hearing loss. Loud noise is especially harmful to the cochlea or inner ear. Even a one-time exposure to extremely loud noise or listening to loud sounds for extended periods of time can cause hearing loss. The loud noise can damage the membranes and hair cells in the cochlea. 

Most of us are born with around 16,000 tiny hair cells within the cochlea. These hair cells allow your brain to pick up sounds. Listening to loud noise for an extended period of time can cause the hair cells in the ear to be overexerted. In fact, anywhere from 30% to 50% of these tiny hair cells can be destroyed or damaged before a hearing test can detect changes in your hearing.

The damaging of and death of these cells leads to hearing loss, which tends to progress as exposure to the loud noise continues. At the same time, the harmful effects of this loud noise can continue even after the exposure has stopped. Any damage to your auditory neural system or inner ear is almost always permanent. 

In addition to destroying and damaging the tiny hair cells, loud noise can cause damage to the auditory nerve. This nerve is tasked with carrying information about different sounds to your brain. And early auditory nerve damage may not appear on your hearing test.

This type of damage can lead to a “hidden hearing loss” that may complicate your ability to hear and understand speech in noisy places. Even so, the impact of loud noise can have a strong influence on your ability to hear later in life. It can also be a major factor in how quickly you develop hearing problems — even when the exposure to loud noise has ceased. 

Can Consistent Noise Cause Sudden and Immediate Hearing Loss?

While consistent exposure to loud noise is dangerous and can be hazardous to your hearing, it typically doesn’t cause immediate hearing loss. On the contrary, a damaged ear is rarely recognized or noticeable immediately. In many instances, Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is the result of years of loud noise exposure. Most people do not realize they have hearing loss until a family member or friend points it out. 

If you do experience sudden hearing loss, you should see an Ear Nose & Throat doctor as quickly as possible. This is a detail that wasn’t included in the movie. If you are evaluated soon enough, the physician may be able to use steroid treatment to help you recover your hearing. 

Is Hearing Loss Measured in Percentages?

The portrayal of the Audiologist in the movie was cold, emotionless, and lacking significant detail and support. These are all stark contrasts to our methodology at North Shore Hearing P.C. In addition the Audiologists quantified Ruben’s hearing loss as a percentage, which isn’t accurate. 

Hearing loss is measured in decibels (dB). It’s gauged as loudness versus pitch of sounds. After taking a hearing test, your audiologist will use an Audiogram to effectively plot out the results of your hearing test. We generally categorize hearing loss in the following categories:

  • 26-40 dB HL or mild hearing loss is when you may find it hard to hear soft sounds and undertones in backgrounds that are loud or noisy. 
  • 42 – 55 dB HL or moderate hearing loss explains if you may find it very difficult to follow speech if background noises are introduced.
  • 71-90 dB HL or severe hearing loss explains if it’s extremely hard for you to follow conversations.
  • Above 90 dB HL or profound hearing loss explains if hearing is virtually impossible without hearing aids

It’s important to understand that the 100 dB threshold is not the same as 100% hearing loss. At North Shore Hearing P.C., we leverage state-of-the-art technology to perform a range of audiological tests to identify and explain the type of hearing loss you or your loved one may be experiencing. 

Then we will discuss in detail our learnings as well as what we can do to best help you or your loved one feel confident in the health of their ears and ability to hear. Our goal is to help you confidently regain the joy of hearing. 

Contact North Shore Hearing P.C. for Free Hearing Screening

The Sound of Metal has received both praise and critique for its take on hearing loss and deafness. No matter your cinematic opinion, the movie does raise awareness about the hazards of extended exposure to loud music and noise, which can be especially applicable to musicians.

In almost all cases, the earlier your hearing loss is detected and treated, the better the outcomes. And to help you do just that, North Shore Hearing P.C. offers a free hearing screening service.

Contact us today to schedule your free hearing screening.