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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 18:52 GMT
Warning over festive hearing loss
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website disability affairs reporter

Party goers and music lovers are being warned that listening to very loud music over the Christmas period could result in a 'noise hangover', the effects of which could last a lifetime.

Photo of clubbers
Regular clubbers are particularly at risk of damaging their hearing
The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) says Christmas is a time when people traditionally over indulge.

But whereas indigestion can be treated relatively easily, over exposure to loud music at parties, pubs, clubs or on personal music players could result in permanent hearing damage.

The organisation says people also risk having tinnitus - a permanent ringing or buzzing sensation in the ears.

"Our research into personal stereo use found that only 14 percent of those questioned were able to resist the urge to turn the volume up to drown out background noise," said RNID campaigns officer Lisa McDonald.

"Many admitted to knowingly listening to their stereos too loudly, and the majority weren't aware that damage to hearing caused by loud music couldn't be repaired."

The RNID is advising people - many of whom will receive personal music players for Christmas - to make sure that they have a pair of properly fitting headphones which reduce the amount of background noise that seeps in.

Photo of teenager using personal stereo
Personal stereo users need to resist the urge to turn up the volume
It recommends headphones with special attachments that create a seal around the ear canal which reduces the need to increase the volume so much.

Another beneficial side effect is that others would be less bothered by overhearing the headphones' output.

Party safely

For those planning to dance the night away at parties or in clubs, the RNID is advising people to take some simple steps to protect their ears:

  • Stand well away from loud speakers
  • Take regular breaks from the dance floor and use chillout areas
  • Consider wearing earplugs which are designed for use in clubs and at gigs - this is especially important if exposure to very loud noise is very frequent

The organisation says that the noise on dance floors reaches an average of 110 decibels - equivalent to an aircraft taking off.

Under these conditions, it says that someone who goes clubbing once a week could potentially be putting their hearing at risk.

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