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Action on Hearing Loss tackles a different loudness war

The pro-audio industry lives for loud music, but as the UK’s Action on Hearing Loss has discovered, most people don’t know just how much damage loud music can cause, writes Erica Basnicki.

A survey of 1,000 people throughout the UK by Action on Hearing Loss has revealed that most people don’t realise that loud music can cause a significant amount of damage to their hearing. The survey was released 21 May, coinciding with the start of Noise Action Week; an annual initiative run by Environmental Protection UK, which aims to raise awareness of the problems caused by noise. Of those surveyed, 83% said they’ve experienced temporary tinnitus or ‘ringing in their ears’, but only one in five would be ‘a bit worried’ if they experienced it permanently. Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Plan B have lent their support Action on Hearing Loss’s Loud Music campaign after admitting they suffered from tinnitus from listening to loud music for too many years without hearing protection. Of primary concern to Action on Hearing Loss is the volume level of MP3 players. A new European law comes into effect in 2013, which dictates that new players are to have a maximum default volume setting of 85dB, which is generally accepted as the level at which hearing damage begins. However, Action on Hearing Loss’s survey reveals that despite the potential for damage, one in three people would override this setting. “Many people are putting their hearing at risk because they listen to music too loud for too long on mp3 players,” said Action on Hearing Loss director of public engagement Emma Harrison. “They can reach volumes in excess of 100dB – the equivalent of a pneumatic drill close by. While people wouldn’t choose to stand near a drill for very long, many spend hours listening to music at the same dangerous level, without realising that this could damage their hearing over time.”