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Sound advice that's music to our ears

When listening to music from your phone or music player, you should tune in at no more than 60 per cent of the player's maximum volume and for no more than 60 minutes at a time. This applies to all sounds streamed from a player, including audio books
When listening to music from your phone or music player, you should tune in at no more than 60 per cent of the player's maximum volume and for no more than 60 minutes at a time. This applies to all sounds streamed from a player, including audio books, podcasts and movies.ST FILE PHOTO

Audiologist on hazards of exposure to loud noise and what to do to prevent hearing loss

Hearing allows us to communicate with others, learn, and enjoy things like music and conversation.

However, many people do not realise that they may be exposing their ears to a huge amount of potentially damaging noise on a daily basis, said Ms Kasia Dragun, an audiologist with Sivantos South-east Asia's sales and marketing team.

Exposure to excessively loud noise can result in hearing loss, though it is largely preventable.

Noise-induced hearing loss usually happens slowly. And the longer you are exposed to a loud noise, the more damaging it may be. Indeed, musicians have been found to be more likely to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss than the average person.

Ms Dragun, who graduated with a bachelor degree in acoustics, hearing healthcare and noise control from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, offers tips on how to protect your hearing:

USE HEADPHONES, NOT EARPHONES

These are better than earphones as they will provide you with a good sound quality at a lower volume.

Headphones offer better static isolation, which means they are better at blocking out ambient noise - the background noise that is always present such as traffic on a street. Hence, there is less of a need to crank up the volume to overcome the background noise.

When using earphones, try not to turn up the volume too much and, if possible, use noise-cancelling earphones or headphones as these further reduce ambient noise.

FOLLOW THE 60/60 RULE

Do this when listening to music from your phone or music player. This means you should listen to music at no more than 60 per cent of your music player's maximum volume and for no more than 60 minutes at a time.

This rule applies to all sounds streamed from a player, including audio books, podcasts and movies.

The volume or loudness of a sound is determined by the sound pressure level, which is measured in decibels (dB).

Most phones and music players can produce sounds of over 120dB. City traffic sound is about 85dB while a conversation is about 60dB.

Ideally, the sound should be under 85dB but it may be challenging to measure this. You can, instead, monitor the volume bars on your devices and make sure they do not go too far beyond the halfway mark.

TAKE 'QUIET BREAKS'

Such breaks let you get away from loud, continuous noise or sounds, so that you are less likely to suffer hearing loss.

If you cannot move away from loud noise sources, wear ear plugs to protect your ears.

TURN DOWN THE VOLUME

Do this in enclosed spaces. Your neighbours do not have to hear what you are watching on TV.

Ideally, the sound should be no more than 85dB. You can download simple smartphone apps to measure the sound level.

LIMIT EXPOSURE TO LOUD NOISE

Safe exposure is also dependent on time. It is fine to listen to music at the level of 85dB for eight hours a day but every additional 3dB will cut the time by half. That means 88dB is safe for four hours, 91dB for two hours and so on.

LEAD A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Get plenty of exercise, quit smoking and cut down on sodium intake. These will help you to keep your ears in good shape.

Cardiovascular exercise helps to improve blood flow to the ears. It is even better if you do your workouts at a quiet spot, like MacRitchie Reservoir or Botanic Gardens. This will provide additional quiet breaks for your ears.

There is a clear correlation between cigarette addiction and hearing loss. Smokers are nearly 70 per cent more likely than non-smokers to suffer from hearing loss. In many cases, hearing problems increase proportionately with the intensity and duration of exposure to cigarette smoke.

A diet with too much sodium may aggravate symptoms of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vertigo.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Sound advice that's music to our ears'. Print Edition | Subscribe