Time to crack down on the ear-splitting driller killers
Why noisy road works need to come with warning signs and diversions
It’s time that noisy building sites and road works came with warning signs to protect the hearing of passers-by as well as those working on site.
That’s the opinion of a nationwide hearing aid specialist which says that many sites operate with noises well over what is considered safe for people’s long-term hearing, and should take visible steps to protect the public.
According to Yorkshire-based Audiologist, it’s good that site workers are issued with ear defenders, but the public, going about their business nearby, goes unprotected.
“The average site with a pneumatic drill or heavy machinery can be far louder than acceptable limits,” says Audiologist spokesperson Jonathan Ratcliffe, “And often people can be walking mere feet away without any protection.
“And that’s particularly worrying for vulnerable people in society, such as the very young, the elderly, or people with already compromised hearing.”
The major problem is that a building site jack hammer or road worker’s pneumatic drill can be as loud as 90dB (decibels), where experts agree that exposure to noises above 85dB can be damaging to hearing.
But what’s a mere 5dB difference among friends? Quite a lot says, Audiologist’s Jonathan Ratcliffe.
“The decibel scale is logarithmic, not linear – just like the Richter Scale for earthquakes. That means 90dB isn’t five per cent louder than 85, it’s around one-and-a-half times as loud.
- Every 10 dB rise in noise level is double the loudness
- For example, 100 dB is four times louder than 80 dB
That sort of level might be OK for the public if it were confined to behind the solid fencing of a building site, Audiologist says. But in a town or city street that becomes a real problem for those with sensitive hearing.
So, what should be done?
“In an ideal world,” says Ratcliffe, “Site staff should be handing out ear defenders to passers-by. But this isn’t an ideal world, and this is never going to happen.”
“And we know what the public is like – the poor construction company will go through hundreds of sets of stolen ear defenders in a single day. People love a freebie.”
Instead, Ratcliffe suggests mandatory warning signs that the public are entering an area where they could be exposed to potentially dangerous sound levels.
“And on top of that, there should be suggested diversion routes to help people find their way past,” he says.
It’s not a sledgehammer to crack a nut, Audiologist argues. There’s a genuine risk that vulnerable people could suffer hearing injuries as a result of exposure to loud industrial noise, and there should be a duty of care on the construction industry to mitigate that risk.
“In the end, it makes perfect sense for the general public to be warned of loud machinery in public places,” says Audiologist’s Jonathan Ratcliffe.
“That leaves people to take their own judgement as to whether they should walk on past with fingers in their ears, or to take a diversion.”
It’s either that or hang on to the day they invest the silent pneumatic drill.
“That’s not going to happen, either.”
Call to ban washroom hand dryers say the deaf
Public bathroom hand driers “are as loud as pneumatic drills”
High-powered electric hand driers in public toilets are as loud as pneumatic drills and could cause lasting damage to vulnerable people’s hearing.
The warning comes from a national hearing aid company which says that newer, more powerful driers are exceptionally loud, especially in the enclosed space of a public convenience.
In fact, Audiologist.co.uk says that if you’re worried about your hearing in any way, you should consider drying your hands with a towel.
“Let’s not beat about the bush here,” says Audiologist.co.uk spokesperson Jonathan Ratcliffe, “You’re standing for up to a minute in front of a machine that is making as much noise as a construction worker drilling a hole in the road.
“The only difference between him and you is that he’s been issued with ear defenders.”
While periodic exposure to loud hand driers may have little effect on healthy people, those with compromised hearing, the very young and the elderly could be at risk.
The figures need some explaining, but are relatively easy to understand:
• The generally accepted maximum safe sound level is 85dB.
• Pneumatic drills come in at 90dB and more, as do some models of electric hand drier in public conveniences
• Normal conversation is 60dB
• The decibel scale is logarithmic not linear, which means every 10dB increase doubles the sound level, meaning a hand drier is 8 times louder (and not 1.5 times louder) than normal conversation.
The risk from noisy hand driers is increased by their unique positioning, Ratcliffe points out.
“Most toilets are small enclosed spaces which are all tiles, stainless steel and mirrors,” he explains.
“That means any sound is likely to be amplified, and the pressure on the ear drums increased.
“One would say it would almost be reckless to position loud machinery in an enclosed space.”
It’s even worse for children, with a typical machine being at the same height as their head.
“They literally are getting it full blast,” Ratcliffe says.
In a busy toilet area, such as a railway station or motorway service area, multiple blowers could be running continuously, increasing hearing risks further.
This also means employers should also factor in the hearing risk to attendants and cleaners as much as they would for other health factors.
“The cumulative effect of working in an enclosed space with noisy machinery is well documented,” says Ratcliffe, “and it applies as much to toilet attendants as it does factory workers.
There’s a fortune to be made by the inventor of the quiet high-powered bathroom blower, Audiologist.co.uk predicts.
And what if the hand drier is your only option and there’s not a towel to be seen, Ratcliffe asks.
“Then do as men have done since time immemorial – that’s what the backs of your trouser legs are for. We know it’s filthy – but what can you do?”
Best Hearing Aids
Booming advancements in technology mean that every year, we are able to benefit from an ever-increasing array of new devices and accessories. The same runs true for advancements in hearing aid technology, and choosing the right device for you is no longer a simple choice. With so much on the market, it’s important to get the perfect fitting device for your needs. Here are three of the best hearing aids currently available.
The Oticon Opn came out in June 2016 and has proved a massive hit ever since. It has one of, if not the highest specification around, and uses a 24-bit block-floating point representation for better signal resolution and frequency across 64 frequency channels. As such, it is fantastic at providing clear and natural sound and blocks out unnecessary background noise. The only qualms people have is that it is a relatively expensive hearing aid available on the market, and for the price it doesn’t have an in-ear model or a full sized behind-the-ear model.
Resound Linx2 9
Since 2014, this model of hearing aid has been incredibly popular and even ranked the best by many publications. Its perks include that it is compatible with smartphone technology, it is compatible with the needs of 90% of hearing aid users, it makes full use of Resounds impressive 2.4 GHz wireless technology and it uses a system to balance the sound received in each ear via effective communication. All of this means that you get ease of use as well as an incredibly natural hearing experience.
Starkey Soundlens Synergy
This range of IIC (Invisible In Canal) hearing aids has proved extremely popular for a number of reasons. First off, it opens up the ability to use IIC’s to more people, as the hearing aid is 20% smaller than others on the market. It is also the only IIC on the market that offers wireless technology. On top of this, the wireless technology allows you to stream music and TV shows right to your ear. Some do have an issue with the price, as it is commonly one of the most expensive on the market.
As you can see, among just these three devices, the range of perks is incredible and each model can differ in some very significant ways. Before purchasing your own device therefore, it would be best to speak to a professional and assess what your needs are and which model will suit you best. No doubt there will be something to offer you far more than you think you need.
Invisible Hearing Aids – Pros & Cons
With so much variety nowadays when it comes to deciding which hearing aid to buy, it’s important you do your research and find the one that will suit you best. For many, invisible hearing aids could be a fantastic choice, so before you make your final decision here are the pros and cons of buying invisible hearing aids.
They are invisible
This one is pretty obvious, but for many looking for a hearing aid, one of their biggest concerns is that they don’t want to be seen wearing an ugly clinical device. Invisible hearing aids are the natural go-to choice and help hide the fact that you are using one, making them a great way to ease first-time users into going out in public with one.
A more natural feel
Those using hearing aids will quickly come to terms with something called the occlusion effect. This is where the user’s own voice can appear very loud or hollow to themselves when they are speaking. It can be very annoying and unnatural; however, invisible hearing aids help reduce this, both because they are smaller and shorter than traditional aids. This allows less space for sound waves to vibrate around and create this occlusion effect.
Because they are smaller and closer to the ear drum, they require less power in order for the sound to reach the user. This is great because it leads to less residual sound energy and so less feedback when doing things like speaking on a mobile phone.
Not suitable for all
If you suffer from more severe hearing loss, then it’s likely that invisible hearing aids aren’t right for you as they lack the power and more advanced technology of the larger hearing aids.
Short battery life
Due to the nature of the hearing aids being much smaller, they can only fit much smaller batteries which will obviously give less power. This means that you will need to change the batteries more often, and this can, in turn, cost you more money.
Lack of more advanced directionality
Larger hearing devices are able to fit more than one microphone in them which are programmed to pick up sound from the correct direction and thus give you a better experience. For example, if you are in a busy environment but speaking to someone in front of you, advanced directionality technology allows you hear to hear that person more clearly and block out the other noise around you. Unfortunately, due to their size, invisible hearing aids only have room for one microphone and as such can lead to more background noise when in busy environments.
So when deciding whether or not to buy an invisible hearing aid, it’s important to consider all of these points and see if it is realistically the right choice for you.
How to clean a hearing aid?
Your trusty little gadget can open a whole new world of possibilities for you, especially as modern hearing aids offer greater reliability and added capabilities, including Bluetooth streaming of audio input.
However, they will only take care of you if you take care of them.
If you wear your hearing aid a lot, it will be exposed to all manner of substances, including dust, hair, cosmetics, dry skin flakes and moisture.
And let’s be honest here, as they are designed to function in your ear, they will also be picking up debris from there too. Apart from the hygiene considerations, when earwax builds up on your hearing aid it starts to distort sound.
What you need to clean a hearing aid
These marvels of modern medicine and engineering need be treated with respect, and that includes using the right tools to clean them. A quick rub on your clothing is most definitely not enough.
There are small picks and brushes which are specially designed to assist you in gently extracting debris from the model you own. The picks enable you to “hook” or guide materials out of the more sturdy components, while the brush is a gentler way to brush debris for delicate elements such as the microphone port.
Check all around your hearing aid to see where dirt is likely to lurk – including ear moulds and holes.
When you gently brush or channel materials out of the hearing aid, use a hand motion that takes substances away. You would be surprised how many people use circular motions that simply re-distribute the debris.
Once you have used the brush and pick, wipe the device with a clean, soft cloth.
Be careful what you expose it to
Prevention is better than cure. Try to avoid exposing your hearing aid to situations in which contaminates will go on it – or into it – such as hair products. Also, don’t wear it when you shower or even when you are washing your face, and splashing soap and water around.
When to clean a hearing aid
Cleaning your hearing aid should be part of your daily routine. Some of the contaminates on it will not be obvious, so it’s best to give it some TLC every day.
The best time to carry it out is just before you go to bed. It enables you to take the batteries out and leave it for a while to get rid of any moisture that has built up. Then your hearing aid is fresh and ready for the next day.
Important advice on cleaning hearing aids
Don’t forget to clean inside the battery case too, and inside the container you use to store your hearing aid.
No matter how thorough you are, and how well you adhere to a daily routine, hearing aids should be professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
How much hearing loss requires a hearing aid?
Any challenge to enjoying clear and defined sound (audio) input is a health and well being issue, and deserves to be addressed.
Modern medicine and engineering have combined to produce technology that can be adapted to a range of hearing problems. It means it can potentially help even those with mild to moderate issues. Hearing aids are for anyone who finds that they struggle to hear sounds at certain levels, or that their audio input is unclear.
Measurement of hearing loss
The unit of measurement for sound is Decibels (dB) and hearing is often defined by the volume level you can reach without a hearing aid.
Medical professionals tend to group hearing loss into four levels:
Mild – this would mean you have difficulty hearing the quietest sounds – around 25 to 39 dB. This would be particularly noticeable if there is a lot of background noise.
Moderate – the level of sounds you would struggle to hear would be from 40 to 69 dB. This would make it a struggle to hear what people are saying to you.
Severe – this means that your level of hearing is around 70 to 94 dB. This is very noticeable, and would require lip reading, as people’s voices are below that range.
Profound – hearing loss that is extensive, and measured around 95 dB.
What does mild hearing loss actually mean?
The use of the word mild is sometimes a little misleading, as it implies that the condition is acceptable.
In fact, mild hearing loss can be very unpleasant and can cause considerable problems at work, when you are enjoying entertainment and socialising, and even daily life.
It can indicate problems with distinguishing individual sounds, inability to hear the complete range of sounds, having hearing loss on certain frequencies (like very low sounds) or something referred to as ‘listening fatigue’.
All of this warrants a consultation with a medical professional, who will be able to suggest a hearing aid that can help.
An aid to hear, not a sign of deafness
The key word is aid. It is a misconception that these incredibly versatile devices are to treat deafness. They are in fact a support system, a way of addressing a wide range problems with hearing.
If you need an aid to be able to enjoy the full spectrum of audio stimulation, then it can be an important step forward to boosting your sense of well being and your ability to live life to the full.
How long do hearing aid batteries last?
Modern technology has ensured that hearing aids function – and fit – better than ever before. There are even hearing aid accessories like Bluetooth streaming.
However, all hearing aids still rely on one essential component – batteries.
Hearing aid users need to check battery levels regularly, as your trusted little gadget will not be much use if its dies while you are out and about.
Frequency of changing hearing aid batteries
So how often will you need to change your hearing aid batteries? Well, a lot depends on the type of device you have, how much time you spend using it and how high you need the volume to compensate for your hearing deficit.
Modern hearing aids can be extremely discrete and small, which of course also means that the batteries are tiny. These smaller ones will drain quicker of course, so depending on various factors it could be anything between a few days and three weeks.
If you are new to wearing a hearing aid – or you are trying out a new device – you will eventually start to find a pattern emerges and you will be able to predict the time at which your spare batteries will be needed.
Hearing aid battery facts
Most hearing aids these days use zinc-air batteries. This means they are filled with zinc that only starts to work when its exposed to oxygen. To activate the battery, you will pull off a small tab or sticker.
One of the advantages of this is that you know an exact start time for your battery. This will help you estimate lifespan and map out the frequency that your hearing aid needs new ones.
Don’t worry about stocking up. This modern battery type stays stable for a long time, and will only start to “power down” when you activate and use it. Store spare batteries away from extreme heat or cold to ensure they function properly when you need them. And don’t keep them on metal surfaces.
How to tell a battery needs changing
You will know that the battery is dying when the sound quality in your hearing aid drops off. It might be distorted or quieter than normal.
Some devices give off a small sound to alert you to a failing battery.
When you notice the change in sound quality or that “beep” alert, you may not have long before the battery dies completely. Which is why is makes great sense to carry spare batteries at all times, and certainly if you have been using your hearing aid extensively.
To make batteries last longer
This may sound obvious but it’s surprising how many people forget this important tip. When you are not using your hearing aid, such as overnight, turn it off. Better still, if possible take the batteries out or leave the battery case open.
Is tinnitus hereditary?
A common question from patients suffering from tinnitus is whether their condition might be hereditary. Given that tinnitus is a neurological disorder, it makes sense to speculate that a predisposition to tinnitus could be genetic, just as it is with migraines, a condition that is often present at the same time as tinnitus.
In fact, scientists attempting to get to the bottom of this condition have been able to find some link between genes and tinnitus.
Is tinnitus hereditary?
In a Norwegian study, scientists examined the likely causes of individual patients’ tinnitus and concluded that around 11% of tinnitus sufferers developed the condition as a result of genetic inheritance, but for the remainder, it was the result of environmental factors.
Nevertheless, many experts in this field believe that a larger percentage of people may be predisposed genetically to tinnitus which can be triggered when they are exposed to certain environmental factors. We already know that a number of external influences can cause tinnitus, including vascular diseases or illnesses, neurological disorders, or severe damage suffered as a result of exposure to loud noises. Long-term usage of some medications can also induce tinnitus in some people.
We also know that there is a link between tinnitus and certain genetic mutations, such as those associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease and neurofibromatosis. Additionally, tinnitus has been found to be a secondary condition to some genetic disorders.
Tinnitus also happens to be one of the most well-known symptoms of Meniere’s disease, with the others being vertigo, nausea and hearing loss. A study into the link between tinnitus and Meniere’s disease, which tested a family of 135 people for signs of tinnitus found that nine members of the family suffered from progressive Meniere’s disease symptoms, including tinnitus and hearing loss, strongly suggesting a genetic link. More research is being conducted into the possible genetic relationship between tinnitus and hearing disorders.
This understanding of tinnitus as a partly genetic condition is relatively new, but it is hoped that one day doctors will be able to employ molecular testing in order to spot and treat tinnitus in families where the condition may be inherited. It seems likely, however, that tinnitus is caused both by genetic and non-genetic factors, including age, neurological health and exposure to noise, and that any comprehensive preventative measures will have to address all of these factors to be truly effective in combating this condition.
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