There are some simple things you can do to help stop permanent hearing damage caused by exposure to loud noises – no matter how old you are.
The best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to keep away from loud noise as much as you can.
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). The higher the number, the louder the noise. Any sound over 85dB can be harmful, especially if you’re exposed to it for a long time.
To get an idea of how loud this is:
- whispering – 30dB
- conversation – 60dB
- busy traffic – 70-85dB
- motorbike – 90dB
- listening to music on full volume through headphones – 100-110dB
- plane taking off – 120dB
You can get smartphone apps that measure noise levels. But make sure they’re set up (calibrated) properly to get a more accurate reading.
2. Take care when listening to music
Listening to loud music through earphones and headphones is one of the biggest dangers to your hearing.
To help avoid damaging your hearing:
- use noise-cancelling earphones or headphones – don't just turn the volume up to cover up outside noise
- turn to volume up just enough so you can hear your music comfortably, but no higher
- don't listen to music at more than 60% of the maximum volume – some devices have settings you can use to limit the volume automatically
- don't use earphones or headphones for more than an hour at a time – take a break for at least five minutes every hour
Even just turning down the volume a little bit can make a big difference to your risk of hearing damage.
3. Protect your hearing during loud events and activities
To protect your hearing during loud activities and events (such as at nightclubs, gigs or sports events):
- wear earplugs – you can buy re-usable musicians' earplugs that reduce the volume of music but don't muffle it
- move away from loud noises (such as loudspeakers)
- take a break from the noise every 15 minutes and give your hearing about 18 hours to recover afterwards
4. Take precautions at work
If you're exposed to loud noises through your work, speak to your human resources (HR) department or manager.
Your employer is obliged to make changes to reduce your exposure to loud noise – for example by:
- switching to quieter equipment if possible
- making sure you're not exposed to loud noise for long periods
- providing hearing protection, such as ear muffs or earplugs
Make sure you wear any hearing protection you're given.
5. Get your hearing tested
Get a hearing test as soon as possible if you're worried you might be losing your hearing.
The earlier hearing loss is picked up, the earlier something can be done about it.
You might also want to consider having regular hearing checks (such as once a year) if you're at a higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss – for example, you're a musician or work in noisy environments.
Find out more about protecting your hearing on the Action on Hearing Loss website.