Did you know 1 in 2 young people are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening?
Concern is growing about the rising exposure to loud sounds in recreational settings such as nightclubs, pubs, bars, cinemas, concerts, sporting events and even fitness classes. With the increasing popularity of technology, devices like portable gaming consoles and personal audio devices are often listened to at unsafe volumes and for prolonged periods of time.
Exposure to loud sounds for any length of time causes fatigue of the ear’s sensory cells. The result is temporary hearing loss or a ringing sensation in the ear, called tinnitus. For example, friends enjoying a loud concert together may come out experiencing ‘muffled’ hearing or tinnitus. This effect is usually temporary and hearing will improve as the sensory cells recover.
However, when sound exposure is particularly loud, happening on a regular basis or for long periods of time, it can cause permanent damage of the sensory cells and other structures, resulting in irreversible hearing loss. Continued exposure can also lead to increased hearing loss, ultimately impacting speech comprehension and an individual’s quality of life.
Remember! Hearing can be at risk from loud sounds at any age, even for babies and children.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect many aspects of life, including a person’s social and educational development and the ability to work. Common health issues associated with living in a noisy environment include increased anxiety, insomnia and stress.
While noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible, the good news is it can be prevented by following safe listening practices.
Read below for some handy recommendations from our experienced Audiologists around common #SafeListening questions to help protect your hearing this Hearing Awareness Week!
What are some common things that someone might do regularly that’s harming their hearing without even knowing?
- Listening to loud music.
- Playing a loud instrument without hearing protection.
- Not using earplugs or protective headphones correctly or using devices that don’t provide enough protection, particularly in the workplace where noise exposure can be a daily event.
- Using noisy tools or firearms without hearing protection.
- Using a noisy appliance at home, or living somewhere with lots of traffic noise.
When listening to music with earphones or headphones, what is a respectable level that won’t harm your ears?
Eighty decibels is considered the highest safe exposure level up to a maximum of eight hours. Keep in mind that the greater the volume, the less time you have before you cause permanent damage.
One of the signs to look out for is tinnitus – that ringing in your ears that you may have experienced after noise exposure. If you are getting tinnitus during or after events, you have already done damage. And most of us have had an experience when we have heard a very loud noise such as a starter gun at a sport event that has left us with ringing ears. Really loud sounds don’t take much time to cause damage. We also know that the damage may not be immediate, so don’t think that just because you can hear well after, that everything is OK!
How can someone protect their hearing if attending an event or activity where loud noises are unavoidable (e.g. at a concert, building site, nightclub)?
If you are at risk of exposure to unsafe levels of sound it’s useful to purchase some earplugs that are made for noise protection but will also allow you to enjoy the event. Proper earplugs should make sounds quieter but not change sound quality.
What are some factors people should consider when buying ear protection?
Think about the event and how much quieter you need the sounds to be to ensure comfortable listening levels that won’t damage your hearing. Then make sure that the fit and comfort are OK. Ask for help or training on how to use the ear protection correctly if required.