According to an announcement from the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in Melbourne, Australia, the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), a research division of Australian Hearing, has developed an online noise risk calculator that is featured on the “Know Your Noise” website. The new website comes courtesy of HEARsmart, an initiative from the HEARing CRC aimed at promoting smarter hearing habits and reducing the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
The Know Your Noise website was developed to help young people find out if they are at risk for developing NIHL through their listening habits. Activities that may pose a risk for harmful noise exposure include going to nightclubs and music concerts, or listening to personal music devices. Site visitors can fill out a brief online survey that calculates their noise exposure risk based on work and leisure lifestyle habits, and provides suggestions on how to manage these risks.
Elizabeth Beach, PhD, a research psychologist and a principal NAL researcher behind the Know Your Noise website, said data they have collected showed that nightclub noise can get dangerously high—up to 106 decibels.
“When assessing the hearing loss risk from loud music, you need to consider the duration as well as intensity,” Dr Beach explained. “This is especially relevant for clubbers, as they spend a long time at clubs—somewhere between four and seven hours per night.”
Dr Beach reports that the average noise level of a nightclub is around 98 decibels and, if you are in a club for around five hours, your noise exposure is roughly equivalent to 12 times what is typically allowed in workplaces. She adds that weekly visits to nightclubs over several years could add up to excessive noise exposure, which can significantly increase the risk of developing a hearing loss.
The Know Your Noise website also features a quick hearing test aimed at helping visitors determine their ability to hear speech in noise. The test does not replace the need for clinical hearing assessments, but might indicate if some users need to see an audiologist.
“By knowing their noise-risk profile and the results of the online hearing test, clubbers, music lovers and anyone else can take action to reduce their noise exposure and continue to appreciate the music they love,” said Dr Beach.
There are a few precautions that people can take to minimize their exposure to loud noises, which include wearing earplugs at clubs and concert venues, and taking regular breaks away from the noise.
“We know from our previous research there is already a small group of clubbers who know the hearing risks of loud noise and wear earplugs on a regular basis—it would be great if this caught on,” said Dr Beach. “Some clubbers have also told us they would appreciate if nightclub venues provided quieter places to take a break.”
HEARsmart is supported by Australian Hearing and NAL, the Australian Deafness Foundation, and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.
Source: HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in Australia