Sound transforms the world around us. Sound can also help us to relax, take time out and switch off. All we need to do is put on our headphones and escape to the sound of music, podcasts and audiobooks.
Sound is also something to be wary of, as it can cause hearing loss by damaging part of our inner ears permanently, which can worsen over time.
In this article, we ask ourselves - How can we try and keep listening safe whilst wearing our headphones? How can we avoid noise-induced hearing loss? How can we make a quieter home during COVID and beyond?
With this basic information, we hope that it encourages you and your family to adopt more healthy hearing habits by understanding the risks.
Noise-induced hearing loss is when tiny hair cells (or stereocilia) in the inner ear are damaged due to being exposed to loud noises for too long. When this happens the hair cells are unable to send information about the sounds you hear to the brain. This type of hearing loss is permanent and commonly treated and supported by digital hearing aids.
To make it easier, we can break down the main factors of harmful listening into three categories:
We are a world that loves our devices, earbuds and headphones. We can relax and listen to anything without being bothersome to others. However, the sound you hear in your headphones has the potential to be as loud and intense as a rock concert. To put this into perspective - personal audio devices can range from 75 dB to 136 dB. Around 85 dB is the level at which you are at more risk of hearing impairment over long periods of exposure.
So what is safe? In reality, it all depends on different things. Safe or 'green-level' sound is like an everyday conversation or using your vacuum cleaner at home. It's also about the danger of the duration of loud sounds, not just the level. The longest you can expose yourself to below 85 dB, for instance, is around eight hours. But here are a few other realities of how long it can take to increase the risk of damaging your hearing:
Safe listening levels dB - So, what is a safe listening volume? Sounds at or below 70 dB are considered safe. Any sound at or above 85 dB is more likely to damage your hearing over longer periods of time.
Safe listening levels for headphones - On average, listening at half the available volume is safe for most headphones, reaching around 60-80 dB range.
Lately, we have been spending more time at home and might be exposing ourselves to more sound than usual. Here are some useful tips to assist a quieter home for you and your family during Coronavirus, isolation and working remotely that you can implement now and for the future.
TV, music & video games: Try to keep your audio devices at a low volume, so you can hear it but it remains at a safe level. You might find turning on the TV subtitles useful, rather than turning up the volume - especially if hearing is a problem.
Reduce background noise: When using vacuums or other home appliances, close the door when someone else is listening to sound. This will avoid them turning up the volume to block out your noise so they can hear better, which can potentially harm their hearing.
It's also always good to get into the habit of limiting the number of noises happening at the same time. Remember to close windows if there are loud noises outside, like lawnmowers or leaf blowers.
Purchase volume control toys: When choosing new toys for your children or family, buy ones that include volume controls. This way you can always keep the volume at the lowest level.
Invest in soft furnishings: Cushions, curtains and throws go in some way to help absorb noise. For instance, a rug on a hard floor will help reduce it.
Wear earplugs: Always wear earplugs or ear protectors when using noisy machinery like garden equipment.
Use red stickers: We have a few patients that have put red stickers on appliances and objects to remind them that they can reach harmful listening levels.
Adopt the 60/60 rule: Listen to your audio at 60% of your devices maximum volume for 60 minutes at a time and then take a break. Taking a break this way gives your ears a rest and will help prevent long-term damage.
If you think your hearing has changed, it is vital that you get your hearing checked with a hearing professional. A hearing test will highlight any hearing challenges you have and diagnose if you have some level of hearing loss. If you would like to discuss how we can help you and your hearing health - call us free on 0800 567 7621
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