Many of us tend to think of hearing loss as something that affects the older part of the population, and that you needn’t start worrying about your hearing until you’re in your sixties or older.
However, it appears that the number of younger people with hearing loss problems is on the increase and a lot of the hearing loss that is occurring in younger parts of the population is preventable.
Last summer, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and irreversible hearing loss as a growing worldwide problem. According to WHO, 10% of the world’s population is exposed to noise levels that could cause noise-induced hearing loss. In the USA, it’s the most common occupational disability and many countries fail to protect employees from harmful levels of sound in the workplace.
In the UK, the risk to our hearing is actually more often social noise than that from work. The European Commission has stated that one in five young people is exposed to a level of sound that is potentially damaging during leisure time, a figure that has trebled since the 1980s. An obvious connection with the rise of noise-induced hearing loss is the increased use of portable music devices. People are often unaware that their headphones can be playing at a damaging decibel level if they play them at max volume. The advice from WHO is that headphones should only be used for an hour a day and at 60% volume.
Caption: Listening to music with headphones is fine as long as you don’t max out the volume
It’s not just headphones that put your hearing at risk, though. The summer is festival season and thousands of us will be heading to events such as Reading and Leeds festivals in August. At Hidden Hearing, the UK’s number one supplier of free hearing tests and hearing aid technology, the advice is simple for people going to concerts or nightclubs – wear earplugs. These are the most effective way to protect your ears against low frequency sounds, such as the bass line instrumental part of most music in concerts. Not only is it a simple solution, it’s also very discreet and no-one need know you’ve popped a pair of earplugs in. You can find out more information about your hearing here.
If you do go to a concert or festival this summer and find that the music sounds distorted, there’s another simple solution. Move yourself further back, so you’re not so close to the speakers or take a break away from the music for a while.
So, what should you do if you’re worried about your hearing or you’ve developed a particular symptom, such as a ringing sound in your ears? The best advice is to get your hearing tested to make sure there’s nothing wrong. If there is any hearing loss, then you can find out what treatments are available and decide which would suit you best. If your hearing is fine, you’ll be reassured by the test, and become more informed and aware about looking after your hearing going forwards.
As with your teeth, you only get one pair of ears; it’s up to you to look after them.