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Five ways to look after your ears

How can we protect our hearing?

While noisy occupations such as working in factories, mines or industrial settings used to be the most common cause of hearing problems, health and safety rules have helped to make these less hazardous.

These days, it is what we choose to do in our leisure time that causes the biggest threat to our hearing. Listening to loud music through headphones – as well as attending indoor or outdoor concerts – can all cause irreversible damage.

The NHS says that you’ve been listening to a noise that’s too loud or for too long if you have ringing in your ears or dull hearing afterwards, and gives a handy rule of thumb: “if you can’t talk to someone two metres away without shouting, the noise level could be damaging”.

Here are five tips for protecting your hearing...

Ear health tips

1. Use ear protectors

Earplugs or ear muffs can lessen the level of noise you’re exposed to – and can reduce sound levels while listening to live music, without spoiling your enjoyment. They are vital if you’re using noisy equipment such as a drill or an electric saw but also great for gigs.

2. Wear headphones

Noise-cancelling headphones or muff-type headphones block out background noise more effectively than in-ear headphones. This means you can listen to tunes on your phone or music player at a lower volume level. You should still take regular breaks to give your ears a rest.

3. Use the 60:60 rule

The NHS recommends listening to music on your phone at 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60% of the day. Check your device’s volume dial – if it says that you’re listening at dangerously high levels, you are.

4. Turn it down

Never turn up the volume to drown out background noise – if the music is uncomfortable to listen to, or you can’t hear other sounds when you’ve got your headphones on, then the volume is too loud.

5. Give your ears time to recover

Action on Hearing Loss suggests your ears need at least 16 hours of rest to recover after spending around two hours in 100dB sound, for example in a club. The charity says it’s never too early to start looking after your hearing and offers an online hearing check.