What you need to know about headphones and your hearing

How often do you think about your hearing health? Listen up to limit damage to your ears.

We all know to slip, slop, slap when we’re out in the sun, but how often do we think about our hearing health?

While it might not always be at the forefront of our minds, University of Melbourne audiologist lecturer Dr Caitlin Barr says hearing loss is more common than other health ailments such as asthma, cancer and diabetes.

“More than one in six Australians experience hearing loss,” Dr Barr says.

That prevalence is also expected to increase with our ageing population and changes to exposure in sound.

What are the risks to your hearing?

Dr Barr says prolonged exposure to loud sounds of any kind can impact hearing health.

“The louder the sound, the shorter duration you can listen to it safely,” Dr Barr says.

“It’s all about dose – just like sugar.”

In 2015, the World Health Organisation said about 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide were at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to noise at events such as live music gigs.

“Headphones can be troublesome, but there are ways of listening safely,” Dr Barr adds.

Tips for safe headphone use

When it comes to your headphones, Dr Barr says:

  • If you can hear your music leaking out of the headphones when worn, they are at damaging levels.
  • Noise cancelling headphones are good as they mean you don’t need to turn up the volume as much to overcome background noise.

Other ways to protect your hearing

  • Give your ears a break. Think about your “sound dose” and be mindful that your ears need down time.
  • If you go to a concert, take it easy for the rest of the weekend. If you work in a venue where you’re exposed to loud sounds for prolonged periods, make sure you know your rights with wearing hearing protection and at what time intervals breaks should be taken.

Dr Barr says our hearing is a “precious sense”.

“It connects us to people and emotions, but use it in a way that ensures you can enjoy hearing for your whole life,” she says.

“Be mindful of your hearing dose across your whole lifespan and get your hearing checked as part of your annual health check-up.”

Read more on hearing health in The House of Wellness spring magazine, out now at your local Chemist Warehouse store.

Written by Erin Miller