Tips to protect your hearing

Posted on 3 March 2016

According to World Health Organization researchers, about a third of people older than 65 are affected by disabling hearing loss. But if you think it’s only seniors who have to worry about hearing loss or deafness, think again.

‘Half of all cases of deafness and hearing impairment are avoidable through primary prevention,’ says Tanya Hanekom, an audiologist at Mediclinic Sandton, and president of the South African Association of Audiologists (SAAA) . ‘Healthy ear and hearing care practices can suitably deal with early detection of hearing loss, followed by appropriate diagnosis and subsequent medical, rehabilitative or surgical interventions.’

Here’s some sound advice on how you can protect your hearing before it’s too late.

1. Turn it down

Two factors determine the risk of damage to your hearing: how loud, and how long. If you’re exposed to loud noise for extended periods of time, you could irreparably damage your hearing. Some audiologists recommend the so-called 60:60 Rule: when you’re listening to an MP3 player, keep the volume down to 60%, and only listen for 60 minutes. ‘It sounds pretty wise,’ says Tanya, adding: ‘It is also possible to set a fixed max volume level on iPhones, which might be a good choice for parents to protect their children’s hearing.’

2. Use the right earphones

Speaking of smartphones and MP3 players… When you’re plugged in, use noise-cancelling headphones or over-ear headphones to block out background noise and let you keep the volume down. Although they’re cheaper and more easily available, in-the-ear earbuds aren’t as effective at drowning out background noise.

3. Use earplugs
If you’re listening to live music or going to a big sports match, remember to pack some earplugs. (One word: Vuvuzela!) Earplugs won’t drown out the music or the cheers completely – but they can reduce the noise by up to 30 decibels, letting you enjoy the sound without damaging your hearing.
If you use equipment like power drills, saws or lawn mowers around the house, or if your job requires you to be around similarly noisy machinery, insist on wearing earplugs. Repetitive drilling or grinding noise can lead to hearing conditions like tinnitus (perpetual ringing in your ears), and eventually to hearing loss.

4. Get your ears checked
‘Nobody can “see” hearing loss by looking into your ear with an otoscope,’ says Tanya. ‘Your hearing has to be tested by an audiologist, using suitable equipment. That’s why loud noise, diabetes, kidney failure, ear infections and many other conditions can cause hearing loss that goes undetected for many years, silently interfering with your quality of life without you even realising it.’


In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.