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Keep your ears safe – watch that volume button

Today, March 3, marks World Hearing Day. It is estimated that 5% of the global population is living with hearing loss as a result of various factors, including frequent exposure to loud sounds. 

Since 2007, World Hearing Day – an initiative by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – has been used as an opportunity to raise awareness on preventing deafness  and hearing loss as well as promoting ear and hearing healthcare globally. 

Many of us are not aware of the dangers of listening to high-volume sounds, especially in recreational settings, and in light of this, the theme for this year’s World Hearing Day is “To hear for life, listen with care”. The theme focuses on the importance of “safe listening” as a means of maintaining good hearing over the course of your life.  

In 2021 the WHO launched the World Report on Hearing, which indicated that the percentage of people living with hearing loss, or who are at risk of hearing loss, was  increasing. The report further cited noise control as one of the seven key hearing interventions and stressed the importance of alleviating exposure to loud sounds.  

According to the same report, one in two young people (approximately one-billion people) worldwide could be at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. Loud noises affect one’s ears in that exposure to such noises will, over time, result in the sensory cells in our ears becoming fatigued.  

Safe listening behaviours and noise control are especially important in the music industry, for factory workers and the general public who use headphones and speakers at extremely loud levels. 

For young people, recreational exposure to loud sounds through personal audio devices  or earphones as well damaging sound levels in clubs and bars places them at a high risk of permanent and irreversible hearing loss.  

At the Ndlovu-Wits Audiology Clinic, we see individuals across the life span, from newborn to adulthood. We find that individuals only visit the audiology clinic when they are experiencing a problem and not for prevention purposes. One cannot emphasise enough the importance of having one’s ears and hearing checked annually for prevention and the early detection of ear and hearing conditions. 

What “safe listening” techniques can you adopt to minimise the risk of hearing loss or impairment? 

The WHO suggests the following safe listening practices: 

1. Keep the volume down. 

Set your device volume level to no more than 60% of maximum.

2. Limit time spent engaged in noisy activities. 

In a noisy place, take regular breaks in a quiet area. 

3. Limit daily use of personal audio devices. 

4. Protect your ears from loud sounds. 

Wear ear plugs in noisy places. Move away from sources of sounds such as loudspeakers. 

3. Monitor listening levels. 

Use apps to monitor your sound exposure. 

It is important to use these techniques in your everyday life because once you lose your hearing it won’t come back! So, make your listening safe and educate those around you.


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