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Hearing Loss and Looking After Your Hearing

In the UK 1 in 6 people have a degree of hearing loss, that equates to about 10 million people. In a lot of cases this loss is caused through the normal ageing process, in fact more than 70% of over 70's have a degree of loss.

The next major cause of hearing loss is noise exposure either at work or through leisure activities. Whether short bursts of very loud sounds of prolonged exposure working in a factory, riding a motorcycle or close proximity to speakers at a night club.

In fact the 'iPod generation' with their regular use of personal headphones and MP3 players are most at risk if they fail to understand the dangers of high levels of exposure.

Initial exposure may only produce short periods of symptoms but the damage can take years to develop as the damage builds up gradually. Temporary 'ringing' or 'buzzing' in the ear are typical symptoms after exposure, fatigue is another less obvious sign of noise exposure.

Repetitive exposure to too much noise can lead to Tinnitus developing and most hearing loss or tinnitus caused by noise exposure is permanent having various degrees of effect on life and our enjoyment of it.

Noise levels are usually measured in dB(A), a decibel scale that reflects the sensitivity of human ears to different levels and pitches of sound. Here are some examples:

  • 20dB(A) - a quiet room at night
  • 40dB(A) - a quiet sitting room
  • 60dB(A) - ordinary spoken conversation
  • 80dB(A) - shouting
  • 100dB(A) - Maximum volume on some mp3 players
  • 110dB(A) - Night club
  • 110dB(A) - a pneumatic drill nearby
  • 115dB(A) - Rock concert
  • 130dB(A) - an aeroplane taking off 100m away
  • 140dB(A) - the level at which noise causes pain for most people, although some people may find lower levels painful too.

Long exposure to sounds over 80dB(A) can damage your ears more than 89 decibels, or Db(A) - for more than five hours a week can damage hearing permanently over time.

The higher the noise the shorter the exposure time before damage is caused to our hearing, for instance a motorcyclist travelling at 50 miles per hour is exposed to 91dB of noise, the safe exposure time for this is 2 hours without hearing protection. At motorway speeds this noise becomes 97dB of noise and exposure beyond 30 minutes will cause harm.

That 3 hour rock concert with sound system pushing out 115dB of sound was only safe for the first FIVE MINUTES!

As soon as you apply hearing protection you increase the time you can spend exposed to these noise levels.

Exposure to noise at work is regulated by law through The Control of Noise At Work Regulations and detailed advice for employers and employees can be found on the Health & Safety Executive web-site.

Outside of the work place and it's entirely down to you to be aware of the dangers and protect yourselves and prolong your hearing as long as possible.

Posted on 25th Jun 2012

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