How loud, how long, how often?

Shot of a young woman listening to music in bedhttp://

It’s a bit of a touchy subject. But we’re all adults here – let’s talk about it.

Those headphones. The ones you’ve had plugged into your ears on your morning commute, or on your weekend jog. Ever stopped to wonder what they might be doing to your hearing?

A new study, led by experts at National Acoustic Laboratories within Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub, has revealed how many Australians think they’re damaging their hearing by using personal listening devices (PLDs) like smartphones and MP3 players.

“We found that 41 per cent of participants reported feeling they have a hearing loss, with 20 per cent reporting difficulties with speech in noise,” says the study’s lead author Dr Megan Gilliver.

“High-risk users, who listened at high volumes for long durations, were more likely to report hearing difficulties, particularly in relation to speech and conversation,” she adds.

Fifteen to 19 year olds were particularly at risk of hearing loss because of the amount of time they reported using PLDs –  around 88 hours a month (or almost three hours a day), compared to an average 47 hours a month reported by those over 50.

Interestingly, the researchers found that very few of us are making use of noise-cancelling technology, which can reduce the need to set PLDs to high volumes. Only 7.5 per cent of listening time in the study was undertaken with noise-cancelling devices, with more than a quarter of participants simply using the headphones or earbuds that came with their PLD.

Dr Gilliver says there are three simple ways to prevent hearing loss when using personal listening devices:

  • keep the volume under 80 per cent of full volume
  • limit your listening time to 1.5 hours a day
  • invest in some quality noise-cancelling headphones so you don’t have to set your volume to high levels to drown out background noise

Visit the Hearing Awareness Week site to find out how you can take control of your hearing health.





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  1. Wow, these stats are scary!

    Thanks for sharing those useful tips:
    “keep the volume under 80 per cent of full volume
    limit your listening time to 1.5 hours a day
    invest in some quality noise-cancelling headphones so you don’t have to set your volume to high levels to drown out background noise”

    I’m going to go to the shops this afternoon. Maybe I’ll have a look in jb hi fi to see if they have any sales. If they don’t I think I’ll check online. Maybe I should google “deals on quality noise-cancelling headphones”. Or maybe “specials”? I guess I could probably search both of them. I think that I’d also want to have a good look around in different stores though. It’s always fun to try on different pairs and see whats comfy etc (if you know what I mean!). If I’m there for a long time I’d think about having something to eat. I love lots of different types of food. I once traveled over to the middle east and ate maccas. It was pretty crazy to see how it was different to over here hahahaha. Sorry that’s a bit off topic, but it reminds me of when I was in my 8th grade math class. All year a particular student, known for being a little wacky, had been occasionally pretending to be Pikachu. Some days he would sit there working on stuff and someone would ask him a question or whater and he’d just respond ‘Pika? Piiiika CHUU’ or any other combination. Well, one day late in the year we are working on our assignment after recieving the lecture and said kid starts making some weird noises. Starts to shake a little bit. At first I thought maybe he was starting to seize, but just as it starts to get frighteningly violent he stops still as a rock and practically shouts “RAICHU!!!’ After a couple seconds of stunned silence, our teacher simply shakes his head and says, ‘Derrick, principles office, now.’ Even though he got in trouble for being a bit loopy, while he was walking up to his office, the principle found the most incredible pair of headphones I’ve ever used. Here’s the twist. The Principle was Derrick. Here’s another twist, I was teaching the class. And the final twist? I AM DERRICK


    “How loud, how long, how often?” and “It’s a bit of a touchy subject. But we’re all adults here – let’s talk about it.”

    Well played Mac Uni, you sly dogs 😉

  3. It is one thing for people to report they feel they have a hearing loss, it is another for people to actually have a hearing loss. I may feel I am sick, but I may not be really sick. Perhaps the research should dig deeper into proper diagnosis than just reporting what people felt?

    1. How deep should the research be dug?
      My uncle’s dog had the same problem so he decided to do some research. He stumbled across an article about hearing loss in but thought that it would not be appropriate so he decided to instead ask a vet. If he didn’t dig into the deep research he would not have gone to the vet and would never known how to help his dog that had loss of hearing.

    2. Wow, thanks for sharing that Susan. I had a really similar problem actually.

      My wife has been using PLDs for over 4 hours a day. I think the volume is set to full most of the time.

      I feel like her hearing is getting worse and worse, but I wonder what quality tests would show.

      We shouldn’t focus on “feelings” but the measurable data!. It makes me feel sick too “Anonymous Guest”

      Last week I was walking in the bush and I found this huge mandarin tree. I was so hungry and excited to find it that I reckon I ate like 10 mandarins. I’m feeling worried that the seed are going to damage my body though. I heard a story that a seed became germinated inside someones stomach! I hope my ears don’t sprout anything, I bet that’d be bad for my hearing aye

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