Home Health & Wellness “I’m an Audiologist” – Ignoring This Notification Is Costing You Your Hearing

“I’m an Audiologist” – Ignoring This Notification Is Costing You Your Hearing

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With recent news of gamers being at risk of irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus due to exposure to loud noises for prolonged periods of time, new research reveals that smartphones and other devices could also be causing long-term hearing damage. 

The research, commissioned by Boots Hearingcare, reveals that 1 in 5 (20%) UK adults that have received an automatic volume-limiter notification on their smartphone have ignored it and continued listening to their media at the same sound level. 

Volume limiters are important notifications that let the listener know that a sound is too loud, and could be having a negative impact on your ear health. Some devices, such as iPhones, send automatic notifications, while others require you to manually set the volume limit for music, videos, and any other sounds playing.

Not only do one in five admit to listening at the same level after receiving a volume limit notification, but nearly half (46%) say that they “turn the volume down sometimes”. Many smartphones reach 100 dB (decibels), and research shows that sounds of this level can cause hearing loss after just 15 minutes of exposure.

Hannah Samuels, an audiologist at Boots Hearingcare, said: “The new research is extremely concerning, volume limiter notifications are vital in helping people prevent hearing loss, and to see that so many people are ignoring them is worrying. We’d encourage anyone with a smartphone, or any other device that allows it, to ensure that volume limiter notifications are set, ideally at around 70dB maximum, and that as soon as you’re sent a volume warning, you reduce the volume immediately. 

“While it’s difficult to visualise the impact listening to these loud sounds might have on a day-to-day basis, the long-term impacts can be life-changing, so it’s crucial that this is taken seriously from an early age to help prevent a generation of people growing up with hearing loss caused by continuous exposure to loud noises.”

When it comes to generational responses to volume limiter notifications, 30% of those aged under 35 revealed that they always turn the volume down upon receiving the warning, compared to 29% of those aged 35–54 and 40% of those over 55’s. 

Hannah said: “It’s positive to see that a higher percentage of people do turn the volume down every single time they see the notification, but it’s not enough. One in five people continuing to listen to the volume at a level they’ve been made aware is dangerous is a shocking statistic – perhaps even more shockingly, a small number of respondents even admitted that they turn the volume up after seeing the volume warning.

“We urge tech companies to do more when it comes to preventing hearing loss and tinnitus among their customers, especially when it comes to children engaging in watching videos, listening to music, or, as recent studies have shown, gaming. Not only that, anyone using a device, or parents of children using devices, can take preventative measures into their own hands by setting manual volume limits. 

“If you’re worried that your hearing might have been impacted by exposure to loud noises, book a free hearing test to understand your ear health and speak to an audiologist about any concerns.”

Considering the revelation from the research, Hannah shares their advice on being mindful of your hearing when using tech devices: 

  • Pay attention to the warnings. One of the main things you can do to prevent negatively impacting your hearing is to aim to keep the volume below 70 dB and pay attention to the warning signs if it goes over this level. Maximum volume on most tech devices can cause irreparable damage within just a few minutes; no song, game, or video is worth risking your health in this way.
  • Set your own limits. While some devices do send automatic notifications after listening at a certain volume for a period of time, other’s require you to manually set these limits. Make a habit of setting a volume limit at around 70 dB whenever you get a new device to make sure your ears are protected from the get-go.
  • Invest in protective headphones. While regulation states that headphones sold in Europe are restricted to a maximum of 100 dB output, certain brands and models of headphones and in-ear earphones include a volume limiter, allowing you to ensure you’re listening at a safe dB level.

“For children, invest in a child-specific set of headphones that won’t allow them to increase the volume at all past 70 dB; this way, you can allow your child to game, or listen to music with your mind at ease knowing that their hearing is protected,” Hannah explained.

Hannah added: “Although we are extremely concerned by this research and the number of people admitting that they ignore the warning signs, we hope that it helps to educate people and encourage them to prioritise their ear health to prevent any hearing problems in the future.”

Learn more about hearing loss and the noise levels of everyday sounds at Boots Hearingcare

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