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Hearing loss prevention and ear protection

Prolonged noise exposure can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.  It is important to look after your ears as damage builds up over time and can go un-noticed.  Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.

For example those who consistently listen to personal audio devices at high intensities with ear buds, run the risk of developing a temporary or permanent change in hearing thresholds. The impact is cumulative, so if the habit persists for over a few years the chance of a high frequency hearing loss increases.

Did you know that:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss is the second most common form of hearing loss, after age-related hearing loss
  • 20,000 people in work suffered with noise-induced hearing loss last year (Health & Safety Executive, 2016)
  • Listening to any sound at a high volume – more than 89 decibels, or Db(A) – for more than five hours a week can damage hearing permanently over time.
  • It is also thought that inner ear damage from early noise exposure can leave your ears more prone to the aging process later in life. So the damage may or may not show straight away, but can ‘catch up’ with you.
  • There is no medical or surgical cure for noise-induced hearing loss: damaged hair cells cannot regenerate. Its progression can be reduced however, by avoiding further exposure to loud sounds

Are you at risk?

These things have the potential to produce noise at levels which could damage your hearing.

  • Shooting
  • Use of industrial/ heavy equipment
  • Use of personal audio devices
  • Clubbing
  • Drumming
  • Motorbikes

How to protect your ears

  • Stand back from the noise source
  • Take regular breaks
  • Consider purchasing noise cancellation headphones
  • Consider purchasing specialist, custom-made ear protection*
  • Specific noise protection exists for industry and hobbies like drumming, DJ-ing and shooting
  • For example, hearing protectors for musicians allow music to be heard clearly but more quietly, protecting hearing from damage whilst retaining sound quality
  • Ear protection devices designed for shooting can protect against loud and/or sudden noises, whilst maintaining an awareness of environmental sounds and speech

How to protect your child's ears

  • Use ear defenders designed for children rather than ear plugs, as they are still growing
  • Stand back from the noise source
  • Take regular breaks
  • Turn the volume down
  • Consider purchasing headphones with a restricted volume
  • Consider purchasing appropriate customised ear protection*

RBH Ear Protection Service

*Customised ear protection is now available for purchase from our department. Items on offer include various levels of noise protection (e.g. for shooting, music and motorcyclists), Swim Plugs and Sleep Plugs. Click here Audiology: Protect your ears November 2019, or contact our department directly for more information.

How loud and how long?

For specific levels and duration, please see the information linked below from the Health and Safety Executive and the World Health Organisation. As a rule of thumb, if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone one metre away, the noise is loud enough to damage your hearing and you should take steps to protect yourself. If a sound ever hurts your ears, leave immediately.

Useful links

Contact details

Audiology Department
Audiology 2
West Drive Buildings
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
London Road
Reading RG1 5AN

All enquiries and bookings/cancellations

Phone: 0118 322 7238
Fax: 0118 322 7075
Email: audiology.royalberkshire@nhs.net


    Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust,
    London Road,
    RG1 5AN
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    Tel: 0118 322 5111
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