Looking after your hearing

Preventing hearing loss is possible - largely by managing your exposure to hazardous noise. In adults, one of the most common causes of hearing loss is noise1, which damages the sensitive structure in the inner ear.

Noise-induced hearing loss accumulates over time. The higher the level of sound and the longer your exposure, the more damage is likely to occur. Many popular leisure activities, such as attending concerts and listening to personal stereos at high volume, can expose you to risky levels of noise. Even everyday sounds such as traffic or noisy household technology can damage your hearing with prolonged exposure. By being mindful of the noise levels around you and taking some simple precautions, you can help prevent and limit hearing loss throughout your lifetime.

Hearing loss prevention tips

  • Wear ear plugs at very noisy places such as construction sites, race tracks and rock concerts.
  • Limit the time you spend in very noisy places, and give your hearing a rest with regular breaks in quieter areas.
  • Listen to your personal stereo at a moderate volume, and resist turning up the level to drown out background noise.
  • Where possible, avoid sudden very intense sounds such as gunshots, as these can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss.
  • If you are a musician, take advantage of special ear plugs which protect your hearing while preserving sound quality.
  • Talk to your occupational health and safety manager about making your workplace quieter. Remember, it is an employer's responsibility to provide a safe work environment.
  • Download a smartphone app which helps you monitor your exposure to harmful noise levels.
  • Be aware that your risk of hearing loss increases if you are occupationally exposed to solvents or toxins, or if you are taking certain drugs.

How loud is too loud?

In most cases, your perception of ‘loudness’ or intensity of a sound is your best guide. If you think the noise is too loud, then it is.

Noise levels are potentially dangerous if you:

  1. Have to shout to be heard by someone less than four feet away.
  2. Are listening to your personal stereo through headphones and can’t hear traffic sounds or people talking nearby.

Remember, loud sound does not have to be physically painful to damage your hearing. However, extremely loud sounds such as a gunshot can cause permanent damage with a single occurrence.

Did you know there are smartphone apps available to help you monitor your noise exposure?

With the following industry-designed apps, you can monitor your exposure to dangerous noise and better protect yourself from unnecessary hearing loss.

Description The Ear Science Institute of Australia has developed the Safe and Sound Android-based application. This shows how close you are getting to your daily noise exposure limits based on volume level and type of headphones. Download the app from Google Play
Description Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation developed Play It Down,a free application for iPhones and iPods which tests your hearing with three useful features:
  • Auto-old My Music – Play a song from your library, then dial up your age to hear how your music sounds to someone 5, 10, 20, even 30 years older than you.
  • The Ear Knob – How young are your ears? Turn up The Ear Knob and compare with friends and family to see who can detect the highest frequencies.
  • The Volume Zone – What’s louder, the school cafeteria or your dad’s snoring? Measure the volume of everything from concerts to birds chirping.
Download the app
Description Developed by Etymotic, AWARENESS! is an iPhone application that uses noise-cancelling technology so phone users can hear both music and the world around them. Download the app
Description Too Loud? is an iPhone application from RGB Studio that shows when ambient noise levels are too loud and hearing protection is needed. Download the app from iTunes Store

Testing your hearing

If you think you might have a hearing loss, you need to visit a hearing specialist to have your hearing tested. They can talk to you about your treatment options and discuss any further steps for preventing or limiting hearing loss.

Learn more about hearing tests
Learn about the different hearing specialists

1. Basic Facts About Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Association of America http://www.hearingloss.org/content/basic-facts-about-hearing-loss

The information on this website is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe treatment, or replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.

Find a hearing health specialist

Hearing health specialists can talk to you about your treatment options and discuss any further steps for preventing or limiting hearing loss.

Find a specialist