Why is it important to protect your hearing?

Our hearing is important as it constantly provides us with vital information throughout our day, be it be during a social situation, at work, while we learn or for our safety.

Hearing damage can happen at any age, but if the ears are exposed to loud sounds, permanent and irreversible damage can be done to the hair cells in our inner ears.

When could a sound damage my hearing?

A sound is probably loud enough to damage your hearing when:

  • You must raise your voice to talk to other people so they can hear you
  • You cannot hear what people nearby are saying
  • It hurts your ears
  • You have ringing in your ears or muffled hearing afterwards.

Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB), the higher the number of decibels, the louder the sound. When a sound is recorded in ‘dB(A)’, this means it has been adjusted to consider the varying sensitivity of the human ear to different frequencies of sound.

Any sound at or above 85dB(A) is harmful to your hearing, especially if you have prolonged exposure to it. An example of a sound that is at or above this level would be a motorbike or power tools.

The amount of time one can safely be exposed to louder sounds varies as it is not only the intensity of the sound that needs to be considered but also the duration and frequency of this exposure.

How can I prevent hearing damage while listening to music through headphones?

  • Use noise-cancelling headphones – these can help by preventing you from wanting to turn the volume up to block the outside noise.
  • Turn the volume up just enough so you can hear your music comfortably, but no higher.
  • Do not listen to music at more than 60% of the maximum volume.
  • Do not use ear/headphones for more than an hour at a time. Take a break for at least five minutes every hour.

How can I protect my hearing while attending loud events or activities?

  • Move away from sources of loud sounds (such as loudspeakers).
  • Try to take a break from the noise every 15 minutes.
  • Consider wearing earplugs – you can buy re-usable musicians' earplugs that reduce the volume of music but do not muffle it.

What precautions can I take at work to protect my hearing?

If you are exposed to loud sounds through your occupation, speak to your human resources department or manager.

Your employer is obliged to make changes to reduce your exposure to loud sounds in line with current noise regulation safety legislation. They could do this by:

  • Switching to quieter equipment if possible
  • Making sure you are not exposed to loud noises for prolonged periods of time
  • Providing you with hearing protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs. Make sure you wear any hearing protection you are given in the appropriate and correct way.