Technology robs hearing
HEARING loss is one of those things that usually creeps up on you.
Yes, some people do experience a dramatic loss after an injury or an infection.
But often, it is years of hearing abuse that results in increasing deafness.
In fact, hearing experts say constant exposure to loud noise is the number one cause of hearing loss because it hurts the cochlea - the sensory part of the ear - and the hearing nerve - the neural part.
The trouble is most of us don't realise how little noise it really takes to cause a trauma.
New technology, such as MP3 players, is having quite a marked effect on overall hearing health.
A recent report, Is Australia Listening? Attitudes to Hearing Loss, predicts one in four people will have hearing loss by 2050 and up to a quarter of those will have problems caused by listening to MP3 players at "excessive and damaging" levels. The report found nearly half of those aged 18 to 34 went to noisy bars and pubs and listened to music through headphones at least once a week, both activities that can put hearing at risk.
It also found that listening to MP3 players is the most damaging of all "leisure noise".
What was even more surprising was how common hearing damage actually was among the young.
Researchers found that 70% of young people have experienced tinnitus - ringing, buzzing or crackling noise in their ears.
It may pay to turn down the noise level a little, even if a future of asking people to repeat themselves seems a long way away.
And that's advice even those among us who are slightly older can also benefit from.
Don't be tempted to max the volume switch on the car CD player or the personal stereo system. If you go to a concert, better to sit further away from the speakers.
Besides turning down your MP3 and limiting exposure to other loud music, be wary of regular loud but seemingly everyday noise - for example 90 decibels which is the amount of sound from a lawnmower or truck traffic.
Other than excessive noise exposure, other causes of hearing loss include aging, diseases such as meningitis, viruses such as mumps and measles, head injuries and some drugs including loop diuretics - a specific type of water pill - and intravenous aminoglycosides - very strong antibiotics.
Smoking also narrows the blood vessels which supply vital oxygen to your ears and their sensory cells.
Now that's loud:
Dishwasher, normal conversation, sewing machine 60 decibels
Hairdryer, heavy traffic, telephone 70 decibels
Alarm clock, vacuum cleaner, train 80 decibels
Electric razor, lawnmower, truck traffic 90 decibels
Chainsaw, stereo (about halfway) 100 decibels
Rock concert, power saw 110 decibels
Jet takeoff, nightclub, close thunder 120 decibels
Shotgun, fire alarm 140 decibels
Loudest rock band on record 160 decibels
Source: Better Hearing Australia