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Protect Your Ears

Ever thought about your hearing?

Something we all take for granted today: when was the last time you took notice of your hearing and your surroundings?

How many of us walk past workmen using a pneumatic drill and cover our ears? That's because it hurts our ears and our natural instinct is to prevent our bodies from feeling pain. So if a pneumatic drill is around 110 dB and we are agreed that causes a degree of pain, where do you go at the weekend? How loud do you think it can get in your favourite club? The RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People) has found that average noise levels in nightclubs is 110 dB.

How long do you stay in your favourite club? 4 hours approx? Let's see how that affects your ears; as you can see even at 91dB the safe listening time is 2 hours. So 2 hours at 91dB is the equivalent of 8 hours at 85dB.

85dB is a threshold set by The Health and Safety Executive but these regulations only apply to work situations, not your social life. So it is up to us to safeguard ourselves. Sound pressure is based on a logarithmic scale and expressed in Decibels (dB). Each time the decibel level is raised by 3(dB), the intensity of that sound is doubled, in other words it is twice as loud. When the intensity is doubled, the safe listening time is halved. The table below shows how quickly safe listening times are reduced as the sound level increases.

Day to Day SoundsSafe Listening Time     
Threshold of pain   140
Jet taking off, 100 metres   130
Pneumatic Drill 2 minutes @ 109dB 110
  3.75 Minutes @106dB  
Driving on main road at 70 mph, radio blasting, windows open 7.5 minutes @ 103dB  
Underground Platform 15 minutes @ 100dB 100
  30 Minutes @97dB  
  1 Hour @ 94dB  
Average MP3 player volume 2 Hours @ 88dB 90
  4 Hours @ 88 dB  
Driving on main road at 60mph, no radio, windows closed 8 Hours @ 85dB  
Noisy Traffic, corner   80
Noisy Office    
  N/A 70
Business Office    
Conversational Speech N/A 60
Private Office N/A  50
Background noise, city home    
  N/A 40
Background Noise, suburb    
Library N/A 30
Whisper N/A 20
Good recording studio    
  N/A 10

What Damage is Being Done?

Many of us suffer short-term hearing problems after being exposed to loud noise over the course of an night out. This is often dullness in the hearing or ringing / buzzing in our ears. This is a warning that we have exposed our ears to too much noise and gradually improves within a day or two. If after 48 hours your normal hearing hasn't recovered, then you should visit your GP.

Diplacusis: A difference in the pitch perceptions of the two ears when stimulated by the same sound frequency.

Hyperacusis: A condition characterized by an over-sensitivity to certain frequency ranges of sound which may cause discomfort or physical pain.

Tinnitus: buzzing, ringing or tone in the ear without an external cause. You may experience tinnitus in one or both ears or in the head. Temporary tinnitus is a warning, you may not be so lucky next time!

What Are the Warning Signs?

The most obvious is as mentioned above is the ringing in the ears, this can be a very gradual development so it's well worth taking a regular note especially if you are a regular clubber or work in a noisy environment. Another sign is struggling to hear a conversation or TV over background noise in a room. If you start to notice any of these symptoms then visit your GP and request a hearing test; this will usually be done at your hospitals ENT department.

What Can We Do?

Part of the problem is that if you are in a club or listening to your headphones after about an hour your ears get used to the level, so you turn your headphones up or move closer to the speakers. This is where the damage starts to happen. If you were to turn your headphones off for 5 - 10 minutes or move to a quieter room in the club you would be giving your ears a rest and the level would not need to be increased on your return. Noise cancelling headphones are an excellent purchase as cancelling out the outside noise helps keep the volume level down especially with the in ear versions.

One of the best ways to prevent damage at concerts or clubs is to wear ear plugs. I know, you think that ear plugs would defeat the object of hearing the music in fact this is not the case. The RNID recommend spending around £14 for a pair of re-useable plugs. They 'closely replicate the ear's natural frequency response' which in plain English means it sounds as if the volume has been reduced. Some people have told them they actually make gigs sound better because they filter out the distortion - and you can even hear the vocals over the guitars.

But you think it would be uncool to wear ear plugs at a club or gig. What's uncool about protecting your hearing? When the sun comes out we protect our skin and our eyes, when we ride our bikes we are sensible enough to wear helmets. So why are we not doing the same for our ears? We need to forget about the image or coolness of ear plugs and start protecting ourselves. No one else is going to do it for us, music venues and clubs may start to do all they can to reduce the risks but it is still our responsibility.

At the end of the day we all need to think whether we want to be able to enjoy listening to music into our later years, or listen to the ringing in our ears or even worse not being able to listen at all.

If you would like more information on ear protection then contact us and we will advise you on the most suitable options.