Is Hearing Loss a Hidden Risk of Gaming?

People often talk about the dangers of noise induced hearing loss and how to reduce your risk of damaging your hearing due to noise. When we talk about this noise, we often think about jack hammers, or fireworks or rock concerns but you may not realise that if you are frequently gaming, you are also at risk of noise induced hearing loss.

gaming and hearing loss

Chances are that if you are gaming, you are using earphones or headphones to listen to the games you play over many hours. This can be doing permanent damage to your hearing organ. Which, in turn can lead to a hearing loss.

When the sound from your game travels through the gaming headset into your ears, the sound hits your eardrum and continues to vibrate through the hearing system to the organ of hearing, called the cochlear. There are tiny hair cells in the cochlear that are stimulated by these vibrations, and they continue to boost the sound and send the signal to the brain. If these little hair cells are exposed to loud sounds for too long, they can die over time and there is no way to regenerate the hair cells. This leads to a permanent hearing loss.

A helpful analogy when thinking about the hair cells in your ears, is thinking about walking on grass. When grass gets stepped on momentarily, it stands back up once you are off the grass. This is what happens when you experience a temporary hearing loss, your hair cells experience temporary damage but stand back up if you stop listening to noise and give your ears a break. However, if you continue to walk on the grass repeatedly, you eventually wear a path in the grass. Although, grass may grow back eventually. If you continue to wear down the hair cells in your ears, the damage is permanent and irreversible.

When you are gaming with a headset on, the sound is going directly into your ear canal to the ear drum, particularly if you are wearing earphones. Audiologists suggest that to reduce your risk of damaging your hearing with a headset on, you should not play the sound of the game at or above 85 decibels. Listening at this level for a long period of time can cause a hearing loss. Additionally, the risk of a hearing loss increases as the volume level increases. This means that if you are listening to 100 decibels, listening for longer than only 15 minutes can potentially cause a hearing loss. But how do you measure how long or how loud to listen for?

Unfortunately, there are not very many easily accessible and reliable ways to measure exactly how loud a sound is when it enters your ear canal. So instead, a rule of thumb is recommended to ensure safe listening whilst you are gaming. It’s called the 60/60 rule. This means that you set the volume of the game to no more than 60% volume on any device being used and limit your listening time to 60 minutes. We all know you want to keep gaming for longer than 60 minutes, so once you reach this time, take your headset off, and have a 15-to-20-minute break before resuming.

There really is no way of knowing if you are damaging your hearing. But there are signs and things you can do to ensure you are protecting your ears as best as you can. Firstly, if you cannot hear someone shouting at you 1 metre away with your headset on, then the volume is too loud. Also, if you take your headset off and hear ringing or buzzing sounds or your hearing feels dull, it is likely that the sound is damaging your hearing and it will do permanent damage if you continue listening at this level for this length of time. Lastly, annual hearing checks allow an audiologist to assess that noise is not negatively impacting on your ears over time and you can ensure a hearing loss has not developed between visits.

Gaming is great fun at any age and our article is really to inform everyone and encourage you to look after your hearing and your ear health. We recommend scheduling an annual hearing test with your local Value Hearing clinic. If you haven’t had a hearing test before best you make an appointment sooner rather than later. Call 1800 157 429 or click here to make an online appointment at our 9 clinic across Australia.

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