New Year’s resolution: protect your ears from noise pollution

Jan 11, 2019 in Hearing Protection

Man with headphones listening to audio

Still haven’t decided on a New Year’s resolution? Well listen up, we’ve got an idea you might like the sound of.

It’s a new year, and for some, that means a new beginning.

But we’re not talking about joining the gym, cutting out booze with Dry January, or skipping animal products for Veganuary (although good on you if you do one or all of these!).

We’re thinking of something a little different.

We want you to do one thing for your 2019 New Year’s resolution: to protect your ears from the damaging effects of noise. Why? Because we live in an increasingly noisy world, a world where noise pollution is taken for granted, despite the damage it could be doing to our hearing. Across the world, 700 million people suffer from some form of hearing loss – hearing loss is a problem that could affect anyone.

We can’t escape noise

Day after day, our ears are flooded with unwanted noise. Jet-powered aircraft overhead, traffic outside, a dog next door, building work across the road, trains thundering past, or perhaps your place of work filled with noise.

Worse still, we unwittingly pump high volume sound directly into our ear canals with our own earphones or speakers. All these noises can cause us stress, cost us sleep, and leave us with NIHL – Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.

Most concerning is that any noise exceeding 85 decibels can cause irreversible loss of hearing. Put into perspective, if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone at arm’s length, the noise is likely too loud, and your hearing is at risk.

What is ‘too loud’?

Unless you’re an audiologist or acoustic engineer, 85 decibels doesn’t mean much. Normal conversation is around 40-60 decibels, while 85 decibels is traffic on a motorway (in other words, loud!). At the more extreme end of the spectrum, a pneumatic drill pumps out around 100 decibels and a jet engine produces an enormous 150 decibels.

If you’re a musician, work in agriculture, construction, transportation, manufacturing or similar industries, noise levels in your workplace might consistently exceed 85 decibels. EU rules say that employers must offer hearing protection if noise levels go above 80 decibels, and it’s mandatory above 85 decibels.

Here are five ways to make protecting your hearing one of your New Year’s Resolutions:

1) Keep the volume at 60%. Carefully monitor your ear/headphone music use – at full volume this can reach 110 decibels, so 60% of total volume is about right. Many music players will let you set this as a maximum level. Consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling ear/headphones so you don’t have to raise your music above unwanted background noise.

2) Take a break. Take a break from loud music every hour. If you are exposed to extended periods of loud noise, give your hearing an 18-hour break or longer.

3) Wear earplugs – a lot. If you work in a loud environment, or regularly go to gigs, earplugs can offer basic protection against hearing damage. High-fidelity earplugs like Elacin’s ER20-S will dampen sound and reduce it to a safer level. For musicians, custom-moulded earplugs can reduce the impact on your ears without reducing the clarity of the sound.

4) Speak to your employer. Your employer has a responsibility to minimise your exposure to loud noise at work. Speak to your HR department about how this can be managed to protect your hearing.

5) Book in a regular hearing test. As we mentioned earlier, it’s easier and more effective to address hearing loss if the diagnosis is made sooner rather than later.

Get in touch

If you are worried about your hearing or are regularly exposed to loud noise, the NHS recommends that you take a hearing test. Leighton’s can help. Book a free hearing test online, call us on 0800 40 20 20, or pop into your nearest Leightons branch.