Browse this section for facts, tips and stories about hearing

Caring for well-being

We applaud UK retailer Tesco, for raising awareness in its customer magazine of the ill-effects of excessive noise, and for giving hints and tips as to how to counteract noise in our lives.

Its article quotes Mathias Basner, president of the International Commission on the Biological Effects of Noise, who says: “Prolonged noise can cause us to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline, which can raise cholesterol.”

It goes on to say: Studies suggest that the risk of heart disease rises between 5-15 per cent with every 10-decibel increase, which is equivalent to the sound of a pin dropping.

When we consider that 40 decibels is the sound of a fridge hum, 50 decibels is the normal noise and conversation in an average home, and street traffic registers between 80-90 decibels, it’s clear to see that we all need to become more aware of the effects of noise if we want to look after ourselves and those around us.

Matthias Basner says, “Our ears never switch off, even when we are asleep”. And according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) one in five Europeans is regularly exposed to sound levels at night that could significantly damage health. WHO recommends no more than 30 decibels for a good night’s rest.

At home, it’s a good idea to make your bedroom a quiet zone; ban phones, tablets and other devices that could disturb your sleep. Some of our customers, who have had SonoLab instant fit custom moulded earplugs made for them at their place of employment, wear them to bed, to combat a snoring partner or to shut out traffic noise outside their window.

If you find yourself turning up the TV when you put the kettle on because it makes a lot of noise, it could be a good idea to trade in your kettle for one bearing a Quiet Mark issued by the Noise Abatement Society’s (NAS).

Gloria Elliott is Chief Executive of the NAS and says, “The cumulative effect of noise causes stress levels to rise,” and suggests that if a new quieter kettle isn’t on the horizon, then standing your noisy kettle on a square of old carpet will help absorb sound.

Helen Sanderson is an interior designer and founder of Ministry of Calm. She suggests a number of measures to combat noise in the home, including adding cushions and throws to your decor (as soft furnishings soak up sound), and moving a bookshelf to a ‘noisy’ wall to dampen sound.

Outside the home, it’s inevitable that you’ll be faced with ear clutter if you’re like the majority of us who are exposed to traffic and/or office noise. The Tesco article has a number of suggestions to combat these.

When travelling, try taking a quieter back route, which may take a little longer but ensures you feel calmer when you reach your destination. There is even an app called stereopublic.net which helps you log and share your favourite quiet spaces, and to discover places that others have found.

When it comes to the office, according to research we lose 86 minutes of productive work time each day due to distractions. It could be as important to take a noise-break as it is to take a screen-break.  Try wearing headphones which not only cut out the noise, but also politely signal to your colleagues that you are not to be interrupted.

But will you take these steps to reduce noise and improve your personal wellbeing? You might enjoy bustle and noise, and feel uncomfortable with the idea of a quieter life.

Tiddy Rowan is author of The Little Book of Quiet and also features in the Tesco article. She makes a number of suggestions to help you learn to enjoy peace. These include seeking out a spot where you can hear flowing water, because we are soothed by its sound; when you come home from work, spending five minutes sitting with your eyes closed simply being still and quiet, and learning  to enjoy waiting in queues; instead of becoming impatient, see it as an opportunity for some peaceful reflection.

Protect lives from the pain of hearing loss

Solicitors from Irwin Mitchell helped to reach a settlement for a soldier who lost the ability to hear in his left ear.

Liam Bell, from Morecambe, served with the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. Whilst on a training exercise at Catterick training range in October 2008, Mr Bell suffered damage to his hearing because of the Ministry of Defence’s failure to provide him with sufficient hearing protection.

The protection provided was normally fine, but on this occasion Mr Bell was given one ear plug and instructed to enter it into his right ear. As a new recruit, aged 17, Mr Bell did as instructed. He and his colleagues fired light machine guns and used grenades during the exercise. When a grenade was thrown over the top of the trench, everyone stood up and fired their rifles on the automatic setting. Due to the excessive noise exposure, Mr Bell immediately developed symptoms of hearing loss and tinnitus.

The solicitors worked with Mr Bell to secure £40,000 in compensation. Nick Woods, who handled Mr Bell’s case, said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have been able to recover such a substantial sum in compensation for Mr Bell. Whilst this is obviously a large sum of money, the sad reality is that is does not do anything to give Mr Bell the quality of life he would have enjoyed had the Ministry of Defence given him sufficient hearing protection. Mr Bell is still only in his early twenties and now has to live with his hearing loss and tinnitus for the rest of his life.”