Have you ever experienced the irritation of meeting up with friends after a night on the town to reminisce about the night’s events, but can’t hear very well? That can be caused by the sheer volume of music that was being played that night. Another symptom you might be familiar with is a ringing sensation in your ear after the night has finished. This is a warning that your hearing has been exposed to excessive noise levels and could lead to tinnitus. Unfortunately this is not rare, 90% of young people have had these symptoms at least once.
It has been revealed that exposure to sounds exceeding 85 decibels (dB) can cause extensive damage to hearing. However, music in nightclubs, bars and gigs (levels over 100dB) and even personal headphones (levels over 115dB) are often played above what is considered to be the safe sound level. Due to these places being extremely popular with young people, RNID researchers have revealed that the number of teenagers complaining of dull hearing and ringing in their ears has sharply risen in recent years.
There are three underlying factors that can cause damage to hearing including: the length of exposure to the noise, the average level and peak level of the music. Another variable that needs to be considered is the individual’s susceptibility to hearing damage, which can only be known once damage has occurred.
Tinnitus is one of the most common forms of hearing damage, a condition where sufferers hear a constant ringing, which then can lead to premature deafness. Loud noises are not the only factor that needs to be addressed, but ways in which people can protect their hearing is also. There seems to be an insufficient amount of information readily available to teenagers, informing them of the dangers of over exposure to loud music.
Here are some common sound levels:
• 0dB - the weakest sound level
• 30dB - is a whisper
• 60-70dB - is ordinary spoken conversation
• 85dB - is city traffic
• 90 dB - is an underground railway
• 100 dB - is a motorcycle
• 130 dB - is an aeroplane taking off 100m away
About Don’t Lose The Music
Don’t Lose The Music provides young people with guidance and support, offering informative ways to help prevent noise induced hearing loss and protect their hearing. It is a hearing campaign run by RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf people) and aims to raise awareness of the issue of long term hearing damage in young people. The campaign’s primary goal is to highlight the dangers connected to excessively loud noises, concentrating specifically on loud music being played in nightclubs, concerts and gigs and on personal audio equipment. Don’t Lose The Music workers/volunteers attend festivals and gigs, handing out ear plugs and information. One of their many successful products is Sound heads.
Sound heads is a portable sound meter that tests the volume of personal audio equipment. The aim of this product is to raise awareness about the risks of listening to music at damaging levels. Teenagers using the device are able to detect the noise level wherever they go, whether it be a concert or festival and be able to make an informed decision on whether hearing protection is required.
It works by simply putting your headphones on the sound head and 30 seconds later the user will be able to measure if the sound level is safe to hear without the need for ear plugs. After 30 seconds a green, amber or red light will appear. The green light means you’re free to enjoy the music without hearing protection, amber indicates that the sound could be a tad too loud and if it possible to reduce the noise level. However, if the red light appears, the music is far too loud and potential hearing damage could occur.
It is necessary to wait 30 seconds because:
• The volume levels on a typical music track vary considerably. Some music can start off quiet but then end with a loud crescendo
• So that the measurement is as accurate as possible, the head takes an average measurement over 30 seconds
RNID – The Royal National Institute for Deaf people
The Royal National Institute for Deaf People was founded in 1911 by Leo Bonn as the National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf. However, it was reorganised as the National Institute for the Deaf in 1924. Later on in 1958 the Duke of Edinburgh became the Patron of the Institute and H.M. the Queen approved the addition of the "Royal" prefix in 1961, creating the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID). The charity was once again renamed in 1992 to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, but retained the initials RNID.
The RNID's campaign aims to introduce the issue of hearing protection to young people in a positive and relevant way, which has taken the form of Don’t Lose The Music.
In July 2011 the charity celebrated their 100th year anniversary and once again rebranded themselves to Action on Hearing Loss, which was chosen due to the belief it better describes the breadth of help and support they provide. However, they will still be keeping the legal name, Royal National Institute for Deaf People. The charity’s full title is now RNID - Action on Hearing Loss.
RNID's activities include:
• Campaigning and lobbying to change laws and government policies
• Providing information and raising awareness of hearing problems
• Offering training courses such as BSL/English interpreters, lipspeakers, speech-to-text reporters and electronic notetakers
• Consultancy on deafness and disability
• Offering communication services including sign language interpreters and care services for deaf and hard of hearing people with additional needs
• Developing equipment and products using their social, medical and technical research
• Making lasting change in education for deaf children and young people
• The organisation’s employment programmes supports deaf people into work
Due to the success of the RNID’s work in lobbying and working with the UK government, superior digital hearing aids are free of charge via the NHS. It has a dedicated Casework service that represents deaf and hard of hearing people across all aspects of Social Security and Welfare Rights issues, which started with the aid of Lottery Funding. Recently the charity has become core funded.
RNID has also emerged as a major player in technology research and development, winning an Innovation Award for their work on a new genre of telephone - the ScreenPhone.
There is also a free online hearing test available on the RNID's website.