What's that? Men's hobbies could be sending them deaf

Popular hobbies such as going to the footy, car races, live music gigs and DIY jobs around the home may be sending Aussie men deaf - but they’re just not listening to the warning signs.

As part of Men’s Health Week (June 11-17), Australian Hearing is urging men to have their hearing checked.

“Almost twice as many men as women suffer hearing loss – and excessive noise is a leading cause,” said 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 at 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 rubbish - 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.”

A national survey of more than 9,000 Australian adults, conducted by National Acoustic Laboratories, found more than one-fifth of men reported their hearing was ‘poor’. 

Tinnitus or ringing in the ears was also more prevalent in men compared to women: almost one in three men reported frequent or constant tinnitus, which can be an early warning sign that their hearing has been damaged.

“It plays into a gender stereotype but men are more reluctant than women to admit to difficulties with their hearing or take appropriate steps to protect themselves,” Dr Edwards said.

“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 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.

“The common belief is that if you don’t do something often, such as going to live music, it won’t damage your hearing,” Dr Edwards said.

“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:

  1. 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.
  2. Wear hearing protection when mowing the lawn, using the leaf blower, completing DIY tasks or using other noisy equipment.
  3. Turn the volume down! If you need to raise your voice to be heard, the volume is too loud.
  4. Use noise-cancelling earphones when travelling on trains or planes so that you can listen to music and podcasts at a safer level.
  5. Use mobile apps to measure high-volume sounds that could be damaging your hearing.

If you have concerns about your own or a loved one's hearing, call Australian Hearing on 1800 740 301 or find the nearest Australian Hearing Centre.

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