Men's Pastimes Could Be Sending Them Deaf... and they're ingnoring the signs (and their partners!)
Popular hobbies such as going to the footy, car races, live music gigs and doing DIY jobs around the home may be sending Aussie men deaf - but they’re just not listening to the warning signs. This Men’s Health Week (June 11-17) the nation’s leading hearing specialist, Australian Hearing, is urging men to take action on noise-induced hearing loss.
“Almost twice as many men suffer hearing loss compared to women¹ – and excessive noise is a leading cause. It can, however, be prevented,” says Dr Brent Edwards, Director of the National Acoustic Laboratories, the research division of Australian Hearing. “Unfortunately, Aussie men are generally unaware of what dangerous noise levels are, and how they can protect themselves. Even simple pursuits such as mowing the lawn on the weekend can be causing serious damage if hearing protection isn’t used.
“While we like to joke that men suffer ‘domestic deafness’ - such as ignoring requests from their partners to take out the trash - hearing loss is no laughing matter. This all-too-common ‘domestic deafness’ can signal a more serious issue that can affect many aspects of life, including job performance,” adds Dr Edwards.
A national survey of more than 9,000 Australian adults, conducted by Australian Hearing’s National Acoustic Laboratories, found that males were more likely to experience hearing difficulties than females². Over one-fifth of men reported that their hearing was ‘poor’. Tinnitus or ringing in the ears was also more prevalent in men compared to women: almost one in three men (31%) report frequent or constant tinnitus, which can be an early warning sign that their hearing has been damaged.
“It plays into a gender stereotype, but generally speaking men are more reluctant than women to admit to difficulties with their hearing or take appropriate steps to protect themselves,” says Dr Edwards. “However, if Aussie men are experiencing ringing in their ears, are struggling to hear conversations in noisy places, or have difficulty hearing on the phone, I would urge them to see a hearing health specialist, such as an audiologist. Your hearing difficulty could not only affect how you hear sounds but also have an impact on certain cognitive abilities that affect memory and comprehension.”
Sound volume is measured in decibels (dB), and the risk of hearing loss depends on both the volume of the sound and length of time we are exposed to that sound. Sounds higher than 75 dB are considered loud, and the level at which the risk of permanent hearing loss begins is around 85 dB, the typical output of a hairdryer, food processor or kitchen blender.
By way of comparison, here are some typical average sound levels for popular pastimes and chores3-5:
- Lawnmower – 85-90dB
- Leaf blower – 95-100 dB
- Music stereo system – 90-100 dB
- Live rock music – 95-105dB
- Power tools – 95-105dB
- Chainsaw – 100-110dB
- Car races – 95-110dB
- Football games - 85-95 dB
“The common belief is that if you don’t do something often, such as going to live music, it won’t damage your hearing,” says Dr Edwards. “But even occasional exposure to loud noises can cause permanent damage, which won’t be diagnosable until years later when it is too late. This means if you’re participating in a loud leisure or household activity regularly, you should always take steps to protect your hearing.”
Here are Australian Hearing’s top five tips to help protect your ears from damage:
- Wear earplugs at loud venues such as concerts or clubs, make sure you stand well away from amplifiers and speakers and always give your ears some quiet time afterwards.
- Wear hearing protection when mowing the lawn, using the leaf blower, doing DIY or using other noisy equipment.
- Turn the volume down! If you need to raise your voice to be heard, the volume is too loud.
- Use noise-cancelling earphones when travelling on trains or planes so that you can listen to music and podcasts at a safer level.
- Consider mobile apps that can measure high-volume sounds to check if you’re in an environment which could be damaging your hearing.
This year during Men’s Health Week, Australian Hearing is calling on men to incorporate healthy hearing into their lifestyle. Men are encouraged to visit one of over 600 Australian Hearing locations around the country for a free* hearing check that only takes a few minutes.
“Men’s Health Week is a great opportunity for men to get their hearing checked and get help if they need it,” says Dr Edwards. “Noisy environments, such as a live footy game, are especially difficult for someone with a hearing loss, as it is hard for people to hear over the background noise and focus on what their friends are saying. Hearing well is important, so we can stay connected to our family, friends and keep doing things we love to do.”
If people have concerns about their hearing or a loved one's hearing, they can get in touch with Australian Hearing on 1800 740 301 or find their nearest Australian Hearing Centre at www.hearing.com.au
Hearing Care Industry Association (HCIA) report, The Social and Economic Cost of Hearing Loss in Australia, June 2015 at http://www.hcia.com.au/hcia-wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Social-and-Economic-Cost-of-Hearing-Health-in-Australia_June-2017.pdf)
Beach E, Gilliver M, Carter L, Williams W (2018) An estimate of prevalence of hearing impairment based on self-report for a large Australian cohort, paper presented at the Audiology Australia National Conference.
*Conditions apply to clients under the Australian Government Hearing Services Program.