Loud noise is the most significant single cause of hearing loss

Most young people (and a lot of older people too) don’t realize the impact that a noisy lifestyle has on their hearing. Australian Hearing conducted a survey in 2008 and asked people their attitudes and behaviors when it comes to noise and hearing. It found that more than two thirds of Australians listen to music through headphones regularly and 60 per cent of these people have the volume above safe levels.

Nearly half of younger Australians (18 to 34 year olds) go to noisy bars and pubs and listen to music through head phones at least once a week. And an alarming one quarter of 18 to 24 year olds don’t realize that once your hearing is damaged, it can’t be restored.

Loud noise is the most significant single cause of hearing loss in Australia. And yet, it’s preventable. The risk of permanent hearing loss from noise is related to the loudness of the noise and the duration of the exposure.

Workplace noise is a factor in hearing loss

In another study this year, Australian Hearing asked its clients (that is, people who wear hearing aids) about how they lost their hearing. It found that 52 per cent of all Australians and 80 per cent of men consider workplace noise a factor in their hearing loss.

The research clearly shows the link between lifetime exposure to loud noise and hearing loss. The current generation of hearing aid users blame industrial noise for their hearing loss, but it’s likely the next generation will blame leisure noise. Noisy leisure activities can be just as damaging to hearing as industrial noise. The inner ear cells do not distinguish between noise and music.

So, how loud is too loud?

If you need to raise your voice or shout to be heard in background noise, then it’s too loud. You can slow down hearing loss by:

  • avoiding loud noise
  • removing the source of noise
  • removing yourself from the noise
  • reducing the volume

See, it’s simple! Now I stand well away from the speakers in nightclubs. And sometimes I even hear myself saying (or yelling) to my baffled friends, ‘This music is much too loud. It’s damaging our hearing.’ (Well, it also helps that I now get tired at 10.30pm and avoid about four hours or more of loud bass by climbing into bed instead!)

Check your hearing using TelscreenTM toll-free on 1800 826 500. The automated service takes about five minutes and gives a good indication of whether you have a hearing loss and should get further help.

Last Reviewed 27/Feb/2014

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Dr Merlin Thomas

Professor Merlin Thomas is Professor of Medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, based in the Department of Diabetes. He is both a physician and a scientist. Merlin has a broader interest in all aspects of preventive medicine and ageing. He has published over 270 articles in many of the worlds’ leading medical journals

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