media release

How Germans protect themselves from noise

Staefa, Switzerland, April 25, 2012

The International Noise Awareness Day has become a tradition: April 25, 2012 is the date of the 15th day of action against noise. A number of activities will be taking place across Germany based on this year’s theme “Emission: Impossible!” and, naturally, Hear the World will once again be involved. The worldwide initiative launched by the leading hearing instrument manufacturer Phonak has closely examined how people in different countries deal with noise. The result for Germany shows that only 7.4 percent of respondents usually or always protect their hearing when they go to loud concerts or are exposed to noise on a persistent basis. Hear the World is also taking part in the “Lärm in der Schule – Kinder machen Hörführerschein” (“Noise at school – ‘hearer’s licenses’ for children”) campaign in Berlin.

Noise – an underestimated cause of illness

About 16 percent of people suffer from a hearing impairment. Traffic noise, MP3 players, noise in the workplace – there are many dangers to our hearing lurking in our modern world. Whethernoise is harmful to our hearing and to what extent depends on two factors: duration and intensity. “Persistent exposure to noise from 85dB and above can result in irreparable hearing loss. This is the equivalent to the noise produced by an electric lawnmower. At a noise level of approx. 100 dB  – as is reached at concerts or with an MP3 player turned up to full volume – even 20 minutes of exposure per day puts people at risk of hearing impairment later on”, explains Daniela-Simone Feit, Assistant Director of Audiology for the hearing instrument manufacturer Phonak.

It is not only our hearing that suffers from noise. Even low noise levels can trigger the release of stress hormones leading to increased blood pressure. This in turn can cause aggressive behavior and tensions in interactions with other people, as well as an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and tinnitus. Unwanted sources of noise also prevent relaxation, recovery and sleep and reduce concentration and performance, particularly in children. 

How do we protect ourselves from noise? Germany lags behind, while Switzerland shines

To find out more about the significance of hearing for quality of life Hear the World set up the study “Hearing is Living.” This involved the Swiss market research and strategy consulting company zehnvier surveying over 4,300 people in Germany, France, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. One aspect on which the study focuses is how people deal with noise, in some cases revealing alarming results: only 7.4 percent of respondents usually or always protect their hearing when they go to concerts or are exposed to noise on a persistent basis. This puts Germany second last in the rankings when compared with other countries – only in the UK do people even more drastically underestimate the importance of hearing protection, with a figure of 6.5 percent. The clear leader is Switzerland, where 19.8 percent of respondents usually or always protect their hearing from damage caused by noise. In answer to the question of who has never protected their hearing at concerts or when persistently exposed to noise, Germany produced a figure of 65.5 percent, which is even higher than the 64.2 percent result from the UK. Once again, the Swiss set the example with 38.6 percent of respondents admitting to never protecting their hearing. Another striking result is that women, at 61.8 percent, generally take even less care than men, 48 percent of whom never protect their hearing. 

In answer to the question of who has never protected their hearing at concerts or when persistently exposed to noise, Germany produced a figure of 65.5 percent, which is even higher than the 64.2 percent result from the UK. Once again, the Swiss set the example with 38.6 percent of respondents admitting to never protecting their hearing. Another striking result is that women, at 61.8 percent, generally take even less care than men, 48 percent of whom never protect their hearing. 

Tips and tricks for dealing with noise  

Hearing loss cannot be reversed – once the sensitive hair cells  have been damaged, they can no longer transmit any impulses to the auditory nerve and to the brain. Insomnia and high blood pressure can have serious consequences for a person’s health and psychological well-being. To avoid this, audiology expert Daniela-Simone Feit has put together a few tips:

  • In situations such as concerts, use earplugs and maintain an adequate distance from the source of the noise to avoid damage to hearing.
  •  When listening to music through headphones, observe the 60/60 rule: listen to no more than 60 minutes of music through headphones each day and do not turn up the volume to any higher than 60 percent of the maximum limit of the device. 
  • To enable recovery, deliberately take acoustic breaks and switch off all sources of noise (radio, TV etc.). This is particularly important after going to a disco, or working in a noisy environment etc. – in these situations the ears should be given at least 10 hours’ rest
  •  Have your hearing checked regularly by an audiologist or specialist physician. 
  • If it does happen and you get symptoms such as a feeling of pressure in the ear, a dull hearing sensation or persistent sounds in the ear, you should rest your hearing as a matter of urgency, drink lots of fluids and consult an ENT specialist as soon as possible.

“Noise at school – ‘hearer’s licenses’ for children” campaign

To mark the 15th International Noise Awareness Day, the “Lärm in der Schule – Kinder machen Hörführerschein” (“Noise at school – ‘hearer’s licenses’ for children”) show is being held at the headquarters of the DIN German Institute for Standardization in Berlin on April 25, 2012. The show focuses on making children aged 6 to 14 aware of hearing experiences and noise exposure in everyday life. At different stations, the young visitors have the opportunity to play games that bring them into contact with a variety of noise factors, and at the end of the day they receive a “hearer’s license” to show that they have participated successfully. Hear the World will be present with an interactive, hearing-related quiz, a hearing loss simulation and hearing screeners, and will be providing information about the fascinating topic of hearing and the risks posed by noise.