iPhones, televisions, surround sound movies, music festivals, concerts, nightclubs, car radios – we need our hearing to fully enjoy the world of sound that pulses around us every moment of every day. It’s easy to crank that tune or turn up the TV to enjoy the thumping baseline but spare a thought for your ears.
Loud noises can cause permanent and irreversible hearing damage. Over 3.5 million Australians are estimated to be suffering hearing loss and it’s not just affecting the elderly. In fact, more than half are still working age!
Hearing loss affects more than 360 million people worldwide and can severely impact on quality of life. Hearing aids can dramatically help those suffering from hearing loss, however only 20% of people who could benefit from them actually wear them.
There are four main causes of hearing loss: hereditary conditions, infectious disease, prolonged exposure to excessive noise and the effects of ageing.
Working in noisy environments, like factories, roadworks and construction sites used to be the most common cause of hearing damage but in recent years, exposure to loud music is increasingly affecting young people. Over 37% of Australians over the age of 15 have hearing damage due to noise exposure.
Appliances and tools are also major sources of loud noise – from chainsaws to washing machines; exposure to their noise may be damaging your ears.
How loud is too loud?
Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and every noise sits somewhere on the decibel scale; the higher the decibels the more chance it will impact your hearing, even after a short exposure. 105dB for 15 minutes a week can cause lasting damage, while prolonged exposure in the range of 80 – 90 decibels may also cause permanent, irreversible damage.
Curious to know what noises in your life may be affecting your hearing in the long term? Check out this noise simulator to find out. From iPods to sewing machines, club music to jackhammers, you can test common noises in your environment to find out how much they may be impacting on your hearing.
Although the effects of ageing, some infections and hereditary conditions are outside of your control, you can protect yourself against hearing loss from overexposure.
Limit your exposure to loud noises. Turn down the volume on your TV, radio, stereo and personal devices (like phones and music players). Wear earplugs at concerts, gigs and festivals. Wear hearing protection at work if you are exposed to even moderate levels of persistent noise. If you have an incident of loud noise exposure, give your ears the chance to recover by going on a noise diet and limiting your exposure to noise.
Concerned about Hearing Loss?
Hearing is often gradual and it can sometimes take up to 15 years for people who suffer hearing loss to seek help, however delaying diagnosis can affect you personally and professionally, even in the early stages. If you’re concerned about hearing loss in you or a loved one, have your hearing tested by your GP.
Many people who suffering hearing loss may benefit from the use of a hearing aid; although hearing aids will not restore hearing to normal, they may significantly aid in communication and improve quality of life. Hearings aids may be an optional extra on your health insurance so be sure to double check your policy to ensure you’re covered.
For more information on hearing loss and prevention, visit the Hearing Awareness website during Hearing Awareness Week, 24 – 31 August.