Time to Read: 7 minutes
It's World Hearing Day on March 3, 2019. According to the United Nations, there will be nearly 630 million people with disabling hearing loss by 2030. By 2050, the number could rise to over 900 million.
The good news is there is plenty you can do to minimise the risk of hearing loss. If you already have hearing loss, there are options to help maximise your hearing.
We’ve spoken before about how noise can damage your hearing and given a few great tips on how to prevent damage before it gets worse.
But such an important subject is always worth revisiting.
Apart from age related factors, one of the biggest causes of hearing loss is exposure to certain levels of noise. Over a period of time this exposure damages your hearing.
- How much noise is too much?
- Use earplugs or earmuffs around loud noises
- Turn the volume down
- Give your ears time to recover
- Stop using cotton buds in your ears
- Take medications only as directed
- Keep your ears dry
Consider ear protection if you’re going to spend extended periods with devices emitting between 70-85 decibels such as vacuum cleaners, garbage disposals, some dishwashers, food processors.
Work Safe Australia requires employers to ensure their workers are not exposed to noise above 85dB over the period of a shift (that is, a work day of 8 hours).
90dB sounds - such as a lawn mower, an arc welder or some types of motorcycles are likely to cause hearing damage after 8 hours exposure.
At 100 dB, serious damage is certain after exposure for eight hours, and exposure longer than 15 minutes without ear protection is not recommended. Types of equipment operating at that level include tractors, jackhammers, garbage trucks, outboard motors, and electric drills.
Regular exposure more than a minute to noises over 110 dB such as a car horn (if you're a metre away), or a rock concert, puts you at serious risk of permanent hearing loss.
To put these sounds in everyday context here some more:
- 115 dB - emergency vehicle siren
- 120 dB - thunderclap
- 125 dB - balloon popping
- 130 dB - peak stadium crowd noise
- 135 dB - air raid siren
You’re never too early to start ear-safe practices.
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin insisted from when his children were toddlers, they wore ear protection at his concerts. While taking children to rock concerts is not a wise idea, they can still be exposed to potentially harmful noise levels at sporting events and fireworks displays.
There is a great range of hearing protection available for babies and toddlers at reasonable prices. But where possible, keep them as far away as possible from damaging noise sources.
It’s just just for the kids either. Industrial earplugs for adults are easy to source, but if you’re fashion conscious, take a leaf from Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly character from Breakfast at Tiffany’s who wore purple tasseled ear plugs which you can still buy today.
It can be more difficult to tell when your iPod or streaming headphones are too loud, but listening to music boosted to full volume for extended periods will most certainly damage your hearing.
The World Health Organisation recommends listening through headphones and earbuds at only 60% of the maximum volume. Noise cancelling headphones are also helpful since you can listen to music clearly at lower volumes undistracted by outside noise.
If you’re wearing headphones, and someone sitting next to you can hear what you’re listening to, then your music is definitely too loud.
Headphone use should be limited to 90 minutes a day to be on the safe side.
Remember being told not to put anything bigger than your elbow in your ears? There’s something to be said for that old advice.
First of all, your ear canal is self cleaning. Secondly, cotton buds can compact the wax, preventing the body from naturally dealing with the excess.
We have an in-depth feature about the importance of earwax right here.
Talk to you doctor if you are concerned about your medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, as they can sometimes contribute to hearing loss.
Only take medication as directed.
An ear infection, sometimes known as a Swimmer’s Ear, is painful but there are two simple things you can do to prevent it - dry your ears thoroughly after swimming, bathing or having a shower and consider using earplugs while swimming.
Ear infections can cause temporary hearing loss and repeating ear infections may result in more permanent hearing loss. Any concerns you have should be immediately referred to your doctor.