OPINION: How do we educate people from a young age to protect their hearing?
This is a question that I think about a lot. I know how easy it is to damage your hearing. I’ve heard first hand how debilitating tinnitus and hearing loss can be. The scary thing is, the only reason I know this is because of my time working at Restored Hearing.
I was never educated at a young age about the dangers of loud noise, but I do remember always being told not to look directly into the sun, or being told to get my eyes checked every few years. It’s funny if you think about it, we’re surrounded by loud noise all the time, so we should be more aware of the dangers.
Of course, noise is not the only source of hearing impairment and tinnitus, but it is one of the easiest causes to prevent. Prevention is better than treatment and that means involving people at a young age. In addition to taking preventative measures, people should get regular hearing checks, particularly if they have concerns of their own.
If anyone has any insight as to why noise damaged hearing is not talked about more in an educational setting I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, I’ve put together a few things that, in my opinion, could help educate the younger generation about the importance of healthy hearing.
Start the education at home.
I think it’s important to start education, especially around health issues, at home. When your kids are young you may want to take them to football games, an airshow, the cinema, the theatre, or a concert. Why not start there?
Kate Middleton and Prince William had the right idea with Prince George at the International Air Tattoo back in July. In fact, it looks like little George was throwing a tantrum until Kate handed him a pair of earmuffs!
If your child is brought up to always wear hearing protection at loud events – and if they know the reasons why they are wearing it – they will hopefully continue to do so in their older years. Another benefit of this is, if questioned, your child can educate other kids on why they choose to wear hearing protection and hopefully the trend will catch on!
Learning in the classroom.
I don’t think, in general, that health issues are talked about enough in school.
Education in the classroom should start with teaching the class about parts of the ear and describing what each part does. Once children have a basic understanding of how the ear works, they might be more interested in learning about the importance of healthy hearing and what they can do to achieve that.
Topics that could be discussed are:
- Loud environments;
- Different types of hearing protection;
- What happens in the ear when loud noise is present;
- What can occur if you damage your hearing;
- Examples of what tinnitus can sound like.
Awareness at loud events.
Plug’em recently published an image of different types of loud noises and how long it is safe to listen to them for. One in particular that caught my eye was that a 112 dB live rock band is only safe for up to 66 seconds. 66 seconds!
I’ve recently attended concerts and football matches myself and not one of the events had hearing protection available to buy on site. I kicked myself because I forgot to bring my own pair and I had to end up going without any. This is a major reason why more people don’t choose to wear hearing protection, because sometimes it is simply not available.
If something is classed as not safe to listen to after a certain amount of time, how is it possible that no hearing protection is handed out or even available to purchase? The staff members are provided with hearing protection, so why not the general public?
Lately, I have seen people mention on Twitter that some bands are starting to hand out hearing protection at their gigs which is an amazing start but we need to ramp up that effort and make it available ALL the time.
Advocacy by well known faces.
There are some well known people who are advocates for promoting healthy hearing such as Chris Martin, Plan B, Eric Clapton, Sting, and Paul Stanley which is absolutely fantastic. Plug’em also have some amazing ambassadors, such as Mark Ronson, who tell their personal stories about suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus, and how they wish they used hearing protection sooner. This is all a major step in the right direction.
I just wish more people spoke out about hearing issues, especially those whom the younger generation might look up to. Can you imagine Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, or Kylie Jenner wearing hearing protection at a gig? Or if reputable magazines like Kerrang and Hot Press had regular features on hearing related topics? It would become the normal thing to do and it wouldn’t be something that people might be embarrassed about. Wear those headphones with pride!
Education in the media.
I love it when I’m doing research on Twitter and come across articles about hearing in the likes of The Huffington Post or USA Today. These media outlets reach millions of people worldwide and really have the power to educate people about what it is like to experience hearing loss or tinnitus.
One article in particular that provoked a reaction in me, and within our community, was this heartfelt and personal piece by Shane Sparkles which described his journey with tinnitus and hearing loss. These pieces are important in creating a discussion around hearing and what it is like for people that have tinnitus or hearing loss.
The problem is that many people might not read the article because they feel it doesn’t relate to them or that it isn’t relevant to them. Maybe we need to take a new angle when we try to promote hearing protection. We need to make it engaging, and interesting, so the younger generation want to know more.
There is also an imperative for hardware and music companies to get involved, like Apple or Spotify. Apple could introduce harsher volume restrictions on the iPhone. Spotify could introduce educational ads about the recommended listening time and volume, even imposing a pause every 60 minutes to give ears a break.
There are lots of ways we can introduce the promotion of healthy hearing into advertising and media channels. I hope that going forward we will see earnest efforts by those with the power to influence young people making the case for healthy hearing.