During UK Tinnitus Week (5 – 11 February) national charity Action on Hearing Loss is urging young people to better protect themselves from prolonged exposure to loud music as four million are estimated to be at risk of hearing damage from over amplified music.
Tinnitus, the ringing, hissing, buzzing or roaring sound in one or both ears where there is no external sound source, currently affects one in every 10 adults in the UK and can have a detrimental effect on a person's life, their relationships with family and friends and their ability to sleep, concentrate and work. While there are ways of managing the condition there is currently no cure.
Gemma Twitchen, Action on Hearing Loss Senior Audiologist explained: ‘Listening to loud music on a night out or from your personal music player can affect your hair cells, a bit like the way a fresh patch of grass is affected by someone trampling over it, after a few times the grass will stand upright and tall, however over time if people continue to trample over it, it will become flat. This is similar to what happens to your hair cells – continued exposure can permanently damage your hearing and lead to tinnitus which could mean that listening to music, which so many young people love, becomes less enjoyable.
Action on Hearing Loss is funding research to find a cure for the condition, but while its scientists are working towards a breakthrough, the charity wants to encourage everyone to wear earplugs when going to concerts and other noisy spaces such as gyms and invest in noise cancelling headphones when listening to music through their personal music players to avoid developing tinnitus.
Gemma Twitchen continued: ‘You don’t have to stop your love of music in order to protect yourself. It’s a good idea to get good ear plugs in loud situations like gigs whether you're playing or listening – the modern ones are quite comfortable and don’t ruin the listening experience as some people think.
‘Also noise cancelling headphones are really good for listening to music when background noise is high, like in buses and trains as they help to cut this out so that you don’t have to increase the volume to override (or compete with) this noise. It’s best to take these simple steps to protect your hearing as the effects of noise damage can be irreversible.’
The safe exposure time to listen to music at 85dB is eight hours. As sound intensity doubles with every increase of 3dB, the exposure time halves. For sounds of 110 – 120dB, like in nightclubs, even a short exposure time can cause hearing damage.
Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss Chief Executive says: ‘Worryingly some our research showed that over half (53.4%) of people aged 18 to 24 had experienced tinnitus, with 40% of people unaware that being exposed to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus.
‘In nightclubs or concerts, noise levels are often over 100dB which means you can only safely listen to music for 15 minutes without wearing ear plugs. Who goes to a gig or a club for 15 minutes? Ear plugs are the only thing that can protect you as they take off on average 15-20dB – which takes you under the 85dB level, and makes for safer listening.’
Action on Hearing Loss has a dedicated Tinnitus Information Line which provides vital support to those affected and their families and would encourage anyone affected not to suffer in silence. The line is available on telephone 0808 808 6666, text phone 0808 808 9000 and email firstname.lastname@example.org
During Tinnitus Week, Action on Hearing Loss’ campaign will be sponsored by Alpine Hearing Protection – the No.1 producer of hearing protection.