Tips To Protect Your Hearing: Deaf Awareness Week 2008

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Have you ever come out of a gig or club and realised your ears are ringing?

Ringing or buzzing in the ears after listening to loud music is often the first sign of hearing damage.

Noise damage is caused by two factors - the volume you listen at and how long you listen for. The higher the volume the shorter time you should listen.

Here are some simple tips to protect your hearing:

Decibel levels in nightclubs can reach 110dB - that's the equivalent of a pneumatic drill 10 feet away.  A handy rule of thumb is that if you can't talk to someone two metres away without shouting, the noise level could be damaging.

An increase of only a few decibels has a dramatic effect on the danger to hearing – this is because each increase of 3 dB represents a doubling of sound energy (and halves the time you should listen for).

For example, being on a dance floor for one hour at 100 dB delivers the same amount of noise energy to the ear (and therefore potential damage) as being on a slightly less noisy dance floor at 97 dB for two hours. Simply put, a small reduction in volume makes a big difference to the length of time you should listen for.

Wear re-usable earplugs designed for listening to loud music at clubs and concerts. Musicians and DJs use Alpine MusicSafe Pros and Alpine Partyplugs - which let music and speech come through perfectly clearly (unlike foam earplugs which block out sound). These cost $35-$50 and are available in NZ from online shops.

Use chill out areas if they are available to give your ears a rest every so often.

Stand away from loud speakers

If you want to watch the main act at the front of the stage, watch the support from further back.

If you regularly go to gigs and/or festivals, wear specially designed earplugs.

As a rule of thumb, if the music is uncomfortable for you to listen to then it's too loud, or if you can't hear external sounds when you've got your headphones on, again, it's probably too loud.

Take regular breaks from your headphones/earplugs to give your ears a rest.

Turn down the volume a notch - even a small reduction in volume can make a big difference to the risk of damage to your hearing.

Avoid using the volume to drown out background noise, e.g. at the gym or the sound of traffic while on public transport. Special headphones and earplugs with noise cancellation technology can help with this
If you have a 'smart volume' feature, use it to control the volume.

Don't increase the volume after you start listening. Your ears can adapt over time so that high volume sounds normal, but the high volume may still damage your hearing.