As the UK festivals season gets under way with the start of Glastonbury today, experts from the NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Centre are giving ear-saving advice to festival goers.
The team from the world renowned hearing centre based at The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals Trust carries out cutting edge research into hearing loss and its diagnosis and treatment.
One of the team, health psychologist Dr Abby McCormack is academic consultant on a special BBC iWonder feature out today giving advice on how music fans can stop gigs and festivals ruining their hearing. She’s been working with top club DJ and tinnitus sufferer Anne Savage to try to spread awareness of the damage loud music can have on hearing.
Abby said: “Exposure to very loud noise can cause damage to the inner ear and can kill the hair cells leading to hearing loss. The damage may not be immediately evident but results in accelerated hearing loss over the following decades of life. Noise exposure can also cause tinnitus. This is the perception of sounds in the head or ears, usually defined as a ringing, buzzing or whistling sound. Did you know that if your ears are ringing, they’ve been permanently damaged? Tinnitus affects roughly 10% of the population!”
Research shows that noise-induced hearing problems can be caused by a one-time exposure to loud sounds, or by repeated exposure to sounds at various loudness levels over an extended period of time. If a sound reaches 85 dB or more, it can cause permanent damage to your hearing. The duration of the sound listened to also affects how much damage it will cause. When listening to a personal music system with earphones at a maximum volume, the sound generated can reach a level of over 100 dB, and this is loud enough to cause permanent damage after just 15 minutes.
Listening to music for long periods of time can increase the risk for hearing problems (including tinnitus). In recent years there has been an increase in hearing problems among the younger generation. Many celebrities (e.g. Chris Martin, Liam and Noel Gallagher) claim to have tinnitus as a result of loud music. As a result, there has been much discussion in the media about the potentially hazardous effects on the hearing health of young adults of attendance at clubs, gigs and festivals.
Abby said: “It is important that when people are exposed to loud music, they are aware of how they can protect their hearing. There are several precautions you can take to limit hearing damage from loud music. These ‘top tips’ can help people protect their hearing while still enjoying live music.”
Abby’s Top Tips:
- Limit your exposure by listening for less time or less often.
- Take frequent breaks from loud music. This is especially important when you’re at a festival listening to music all day.
- Wear ear plugs. These can reduce the sound volume entering the ear but still maintain the sound clarity.
- Try to keep your distance from the source of the sound by moving further to the back, and away from speakers
- See a doctor, who can offer treatments and therapies, if you’re concerned, and can refer you for a hearing test.
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