Did you know that around 11 million people in the UK have hearing loss? That’s 1 in 6 of us. It’s more prevalent than you might think. But while ageing and genetics play their part, hearing loss isn’t inevitable. There are steps we can all take to protect our hearing. But it helps to understand exactly what you’re protecting.
Deep inside your ear is the cochlea, a part of the ear responsible for translating vibrations into sound. The cochlea is a tiny organ made up of thousands of super-sensitive hair cells. But once these hair cells are damaged by high pressure events (loud noises) they never grow back.
A note on decibels
How loud does a noise need to be to damage our hearing? Common sounds, like roadworks and traffic noise, are usually way above the safe level of 85 decibels. And if you’re a regular commuter on the London Underground you could be in for a shock. Researchers recently found that some routes on the tube network regularly reach over 100 decibels.
So how can we protect these precious components inside our inner ear?
1. Wear ear plugs
Whether you’re off to enjoy a stellar festival like Glastonbury, or you’re heading for an evening at the opera, you should always take earplugs. They might not be the first thing you think to pack, but with the average music festival reaching around 110 decibels they should definitely be classed as essentials.
We stock a whole range of ear plugs at The Hearing Care Partnership which includes everything from ear plugs for concerts to custom made ear plugs. You’ll find our most suitable range for music events reduces the volume but, crucially, keep the clarity of the sound quality.
2. Turn your headphones down
Headphones have been around for a while now, and we’re used to seeing them in the ears of teens, commuters and runners. But they can be really bad for our hearing. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 50% of people between the ages of 12 and 35 are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from audio devices.
While EU laws restrict sound output to 100 decibels, this is still over the safe limit and means that our hearing is at risk after only 15 minutes. There are two ways to overcome this; set the maximum headphone volume limit on your phone to around 50 or 60%, or try out noise-cancelling headphones. Although they can be pricey, headphone users might find they’re the perfect solution for hearing protection.
3. Have your hearing regularly tested
We usually advise people to have their hearing checked every few years (unless you have an existing condition which requires closer monitoring). Regular hearing checks are important as they can help us monitor changes and treat conditions accordingly.
At The Hearing Care Partnership, our hearing tests are free, non-invasive and usually only take around half an hour. We’ll begin by talking through your family history, have a look in your ears, play you some sounds to identify, and finish off by checking how well you can hear speech against background noise.
Our team of friendly, trained audiologists are on hand to give advice if you require a hearing aid – in fact, having one fitted can help lower your risk of developing dementia.