"We are in a civilization where we have filled the space with a noise that is never empty" which is not without consequences for hearing health, explains to AFP Christian Hugonnet, acoustic engineer and founding president of the la Semaine du son association, which campaigns to raise society's awareness of the importance of the sound environment.

In addition to everyday ambient noise, there are a multitude of other sounds – music, television, radio, podcasts, video games, telephone conversations or videoconferences in the professional sphere – picked up by the ears and often now amplified by earphones or headsets. sound.

Problem, "most of the recorded sounds are extremely dense, so as to be heard above the background noise level of the city", underlines Mr. Hugonnet.

This technique known as "sound compression", popularized in particular by the MP3 format, makes it possible in particular to mix weak sounds with loud sounds.

Which, on television for example, avoids having to raise the volume when the actors are whispering or lowering it during an explosion.

– “Finding silence” –

"It gives the impression that the sound is much better, we no longer hear the ambient noise, but at the cost of hearing much louder what we are listening to" and "the disappearance of the microphone silences" which punctuate the sound in its natural state, underlines Mr. Hugonnet, whose association is working on the creation of a "Sound Quality" label against the overcompression of sound.

In France, more than seven million people admit to having at least one hearing loss, i.e. 11.2% of French people, estimated a survey carried out in 2014 by the Department of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (Drees) .

If part of the cases of deafness are of hereditary origin, "there are manifestations of auditory aging which can appear as early as 30, 40 or 50 years old. And in these cases, noise is one of the most obvious," Professor Paul Avan, who heads the Center for Research and Innovation in Human Audiology, told AFP.

"We realize that the quality of the sounds used is often mediocre, but the auditory system does not like to be constantly solicited. We must find silence, even a minimum, and natural sounds to allow at least from time to time to our inner ear to rest", points out this researcher.

– Difficult awareness –

"Our speech struggles to convince because you have to expose yourself for a long time to have a deficit. A person can therefore go to a nightclub, listen to music at more than 100 decibels and be very well the next day. But some people discover that 'they are deaf at 60 and it was avoidable,' he laments, stressing that 'raising awareness about what good sound is is hard work that should be started at school'.

Part of the solution consists in reducing its exposure to the most compressed sounds, becoming informed and favoring less aggressive listening media.

On the model of organic, some music listening platforms claim in particular a catalog of high quality music.

In the event of severe hearing loss, the use of hearing aids currently remains the only solution.

"The field of hearing health is the only one in the medical field in which there is no treatment. We are not talking about a cure", indicates Professor Christine Petit, Director and Founder of the Institute for Hearing.

Overexposure to sounds of poor quality or of excessive intensity can cause irreversible damage to the ear or even affect the cerebral system through the degradation of auditory neurons.

“When there is hearing loss in middle age it is a major risk factor – and the main factor that could be corrected – for dementia” and depression, explains Ms. Petit.

In addition, "with age and overexposure to noise, there is a very large number of people who lose their hearing and who will suffer a breakdown in social ties", she warns.

© 2023 AFP