We know that damage to hearing usually accumulates over time and can result in tinnitus and/or hearing loss. We’ve been monitoring this for a while and we’re now seeing these symptoms occurring more commonly in young people, and at much higher rates in musicians and people working in and around the music industry, including sound engineers and other venue/club staff. The dedicated patrons are also in a higher risk group, racking up significant cumulative exposures to sound over the course of a week or month.
But fear not because noise-induced hearing loss is largely PREVENTABLE. We’ve put together a few pages here for patrons and punters, musicians, sound engineers and venues to help minimise risk to ears.
To be HEARsmart – simply consider how LOUD, how LONG and how OFTEN you’re exposed to sound, whatever the source.
Whats your risk?
Anyone experiencing loud sound is vulnerable to hearing loss – and if you already have a hearing loss, it is possible to acquire further hearing loss through exposure to more sound.
Everybody is exposed to sound at home, in their leisure activities, and at work; the types of things you do impact your level of exposure to loud sounds and in turn your risk of having a hearing loss. Certain occupations or interests can increase your risk of acquiring a hearing loss.
Common household activities such as mowing the lawn, using power tools or playing around with remote controlled airplanes are loud activities that contribute to your overall noise exposure. Doing these activities on a regular basis has the potential to damage your hearing, so it’s a good idea to wear earmuffs or earplugs to protect your hearing.
Did you know? We surveyed 8000 Australians and found out some interesting facts about hearing protection at home
- People who wear hearing protectors at work are 3-5 times more likely to wear them at home
- More than 50% of Australians who regularly use lawnmowers and power tools wear earmuffs or earplugs
- Males and those with tinnitus are more likely to wear hearing protectors when using gardening and power tools
Certain occupations have a greater risk of acquiring a hearing loss because of loud noise in their work environments, for example:
• factory, mining and construction workers
• musicians and DJs
• hospitality workers such as bar staff, chefs and nightclub workers.
If you often use power tools, hairdryers and other noisy equipment or machinery as part of your job, you are also at risk of having hearing problems. It’s important to also be aware that your risk can increase if you are occupationally exposed to solvents or toxins, or if you are taking certain medications.
Australian workplace health and safety laws stipulate that noise levels in all Australian workplaces must not exceed 85 decibels over an eight-hour period – it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment.
This means keeping loud noise to a minimum wherever possible, and often employees are required to wear hearing protection as well. In certain workplaces it can be difficult to apply these measures, for example nightclubs and live music venues, and it is often left to the individual to look after their own hearing.
A love of music can provide a double whammy when it comes to dangerous sound exposure because of its cumulative nature. Remember: it all adds up – whether you play it yourself, hear it at a gig, a club or through ‘phones, it could be damaging your hearing.
Ever wondered what music sounds like when your ears have been damaged by noise? Have a listen to Preserving your Hearing by Sensimetrics. Or for a different perspective, check out our hearing loss simulations.
Live music (pubs, concerts, festivals): Australians have a proud tradition of supporting their favourite musicians, seeing cover bands at the local pub and going to music festivals during the summer. According to a University of Tasmania Live Music report, in 2014 there were more than 49 million attendances at live music events across Australia. That’s a lot of people at a lot of gigs!
While the noise levels at live music events may be more variable than they are at nightclubs, live music venues can be a significant and regular contributor to an individual’s overall noise exposure. NAL’s Binge Listening Study showed that concerts and live music venues are among the loudest of all leisure activities, we’re currently doing some research with some live music venues to see if we can reduce overall sound dose at a gig without impacting the experience – watch this space!
Listening to music: Official estimates suggest that over 12 million Australians use a smartphone, and just under half of these use their device to stream video and audio content. Just look around on the street and in any train, tram or bus and see how many people are tuning in. Listening while commuting can be risky because you often need to increase the volume to drown out the background noise.
We recommend using well-fitting headphones or earbuds, or even better, noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds – these devices cut out background noise so you can set your device to a safe listening level on your daily commute.
Nightclubs often play music at super loud volumes to get the dance floor going. If you go clubbing often, you could be really risking your hearing or putting yourself at much greater risk of getting tinnitus.
When our researchers at the National Acoustic Laboratories (who also did the Binge Listening report) went clubbing they found that noise levels in nightclubs can range from 91 to 106 decibels, averaging out at around 98 decibels. Because people often go clubbing into the wee small hours, they can rapidly accumulate a serious noise exposure. If you were to spend 5 hours in a nightclub where the noise level was 98 dB, your total noise exposure would be more than 12 times the daily exposure limit allowed in Australian workplaces!
This sort of exposure can significantly increase the risk of developing of a hearing loss or tinnitus in the future.
Motor Sports Fans: If you love cars, bikes and other fast things with motors, then there’s a good chance you are at risk of hearing damage.
Shooters: Shooting is a very high risk noise-exposure activity and shooters should wear appropriate hearing protectors at all times.
It doesn’t matter what sort of firearm you use or whether the shooting occurs on a range or in the field, hearing protection is essential! Contact your local shooting association for details.
Below is an interesting short video about noise-induced hearing loss and its association with handgun and rifle shooting – it’s worth a look.