Why Modern Living Might Be Making Us Increasingly Deaf

The Medical Research Council, reports the BBC, are launching a massive participation survey to find out if modern living is making us deaf.

At present, 1 in 6 of us are reporting hearing problems. "In this project," says the website, "we're testing if our century-long culture of amplified music is linked to a reduction in hearing."

Dr Michael Akeroyd, from the MRC Institute of Hearing Research, is leading the project.

He said: "Many studies of music-related hearing loss have focused on musicians who may be exposed to loud music almost every day. But far less is known about the cumulative effects of loud-music listening on the hearing of the general public. The primary purpose of this project is to determine if there is such a link."

The test takes about 10 minutes and involves an online hearing test.

There is a natural decline in the range of frequencies we are able to hear, but the question is whether modern living is accelerating that. For instance, reporting about a trend for schoolkids to download a ringtone called 'The Mosquito' - so-called because it is of a high frequency that people (namely schoolteachers) 30 and older cannot hear, Live Science said it hinted at much more serious problem.

"There is natural age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis. And then there's unnatural, accelerated hearing loss from noise. Most 30-year-olds should be able to hear a 17-kilohertz sound. This is the case in quiet societies in remote regions such as Nepal and parts of Africa. The fact that many of us cannot hear the Mosquito is a result of an epidemic of noise-induced hearing loss, not just aging."

The NHS says: "The ears are fragile structures that can be damaged in many ways, so it is not always possible to prevent hearing loss.

"The risk of your hearing being damaged by loud noises depends on how loud the noises are and how long you are exposed to them. Experts agree that continued exposure to noise at or above 85dB (similar to a lawn mower or loud traffic) can, over time, cause hearing loss."


  • Don't have your television, radio or music on too loud. This is particularly important if you have young children in the house because their ears are more delicate than an adult’s. If you can't have a comfortable conversation with someone who is two metres (about 6.5ft) away from you, turn the volume down. You shouldn't have dull hearing or ringing in your ears after listening to music.
  • Use headphones that block out more outside noise, rather turning up the volume. You can buy add-ons for your existing headphones that block out more outside noise.
  • Use ear protection equipment such as ear muffs or ear plugs if you work in a noisy environment, for example a pub, nightclub, a garage workshop or on a building site.
  • Use ear-protection equipment at loud concerts and at other events where there are high noise levels, such as motor races.
  • Don't insert objects into your ears or your children’s ears. This includes fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissue.


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