Are you putting your hearing at risk?

If you’ve decided to take steps towards looking after your health more effectively this year, you may well be considering actions such as being more active, giving up smoking and eating more healthily. But have you given any thought to looking after your hearing?

A survey commissioned by hearing aid manufacturer Oticon suggests millions of British people are putting their hearing at risk every day. It also reveals that a fifth of people have hearing loss with a similar number thought to be living with tinnitus, an often debilitating condition that causes ringing, buzzing or roaring sounds.

The most common things people do that may be damaging their hearing include attending loud concerts, parties and sporting events, as well as operating loud machinery, the survey results claim. And unfortunately a fifth of people don’t realise loud noises can have an impact on their hearing, with a third admitting they don’t take any precautions to protect their hearing when exposed to loud noises.

As a result, just over half of those questioned said they can’t hear what other people say to them, with 41 percent admitting they have to ask people to repeat themselves or speak more loudly. In situations when lots of people are taking, around half say they find it tiring to try and follow the conversation.

“The research suggests highly significant numbers of people could be damaging their hearing and perhaps already have,” says Thomas Behrens, Head of Audiology at Oticon. “It’s easy to take for granted but it’s important we look after our hearing.”

A third of Brits also said they are worried about their hearing with 32 percent saying their hearing is getting noticeably worse as they get older. Despite this, almost three quarters of UK adults have never had their hearing checked by a hearing care professional.

Hearing loss side effects

According to the survey, those whose hearing has already been affected may withdraw from social situations. They may also have difficulties concentrating and feel stressed.

“Noisy environments can be a real struggle for anyone with hearing difficulties,” adds Behrens. “Consequently, avoiding social situations is a very common outcome of hearing loss. This can leave people feeling very isolated and alone, and can potentially lead to serious health effects including stress and depression.

“In fact, there have been several studies which discuss the possibility that hearing loss contributes to the early onset of dementia. Hearing loss does not only affect the ability to hear sound, it also puts a strain on the brain as it tries to interpret meaning in words, organise sounds, orient sound direction and refocus, especially in noisy environments such as restaurants.”

According to Behrens, looking after your hearing can be as simple as wearing ear protection whenever you’re around loud noises. Here’s what you should do:

  • Wear earplugs – but remember, they only work if properly fitted in the ear canal
  • For children use ear defenders, as it can be difficult to fit ear plugs properly
  • Keep your distance from large loudspeakers
  • If you’re not sure, use an app to measure the sound level at a concert or other event

If you need information on common ear problems such as ear wax build-up and ear infections, have a chat with your local Careway pharmacist. Many pharmacies also sell ear plugs that may be useful whenever you find yourself in a noisy environment or if you have to use loud machinery.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.