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.