The importance of hearing protection

Many of us may experience some degree of hearing loss over time. Just like our eyesight, it’s usual for some degradation to occur. This is not something that can be avoided, and it’s important to consult with a hearing professional to get help.

However, hearing loss and/or tinnitus as a result of not protecting your hearing is something that can be prevented. Our ears are highly sensitive, and it is important to protect them from any long-term damage due to high levels of noise.

Hearing protection is vital, since hearing loss from exposure to loud noises is permanent and cannot be undone. Noise-induced hearing loss is typically gradual, so by the time you notice it, it is often too late to correct the damage that has been done. Many people may have already been exposed to excessive loud noise through social events or work, but wearing hearing protection for any further hearing deterioration is still important.

We are surrounded by different levels of noise every day – the clicking of a clock, the washing machine running, walking past a construction site… the list goes on. According to the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists, if you have to raise your voice in conversation with someone else at a distance of one metre, you are probably in an excessively noisy situation. Suggestions to combat this are:

  • Move to another area if possible
  • Stop or limit the noise
  • Wear hearing protection

Examples of these modern-day environments are:

  • Music through headphones. Today, many of us have our headphones plugged in continuously. But for how long? What level is the volume at? Often, we turn up the volume to compete with other environmental sounds, such as traffic or a noisy train/tube.
  • Power tools. These can often exceed safety levels, so it’s important for protection in this environment.
  • Gigs and festivals. These events can become quite loud and usually last for long periods of time. Have you ever left an environment like this with your ears ringing? This could be a sign you’ve experienced excessive noise.
  • Work environments. Generally, with health and safety, your employer should have this covered, but it’s important you follow through and actually wear the provided equipment.

There are various off-the-shelf products on the market that can mildly attenuate these sounds. However, there are also custom-made products specific to certain noise environments, and some contain filters that allow certain frequencies through. They reduce sound to safe levels, while communication products allow you to stay in touch with crystal-clear sound. It is important to have regular hearing check-ups to assess if your hearing has been affected – and to be aware of any changes that occur over time. Speak to your audiologist about advice on hearing protection.

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