Hearing damage at home: what to look out for

Three-quarters of people are unaware that certain everyday household appliances can permanently damage their hearing, a new survey has revealed.

Three-quarters of people are unaware that certain everyday household appliances can permanently damage their hearing, a new survey has revealed.

The research by Specsavers revealed almost a third of people (30%) think that their hearing is better protected now we’re in lockdown, not realising how many sounds around our homes and gardens are potentially damaging.

Specsavers chief audiologist, Gordon Harrison, says: ‘With gigs and festivals cancelled and bars and restaurants closed, it’s easy to think that we are no longer exposing ourselves to loud noises but this isn’t necessarily the case. Listening to any sound at high volume – which is classed as more than 85 decibels (db) – can cause permanent hearing loss, tinnitus or both.’

While almost all of us (97%) are aware that using earphones on high volume could cause damage to our hearing, we aren’t as savvy when it comes to other household appliances. Only 40% of people thought a lawnmower could damage hearing, while just a quarter of us were aware that a hair dryer (95db), blender (90db) and vacuum cleaner (85db) were also household hearing loss culprits, that could cause damage if repeatedly exposed to over a prolonged period of time. Doorbells and electric shavers, which measure 80db on average, are also noises to be mindful of, along with washing machines (75db).

When it comes to our gardens, using a lawnmower to cut the grass can be particularly detrimental to our hearing, as typically these measure at 110db.


Gordon says: ‘To put this into context, normal levels of conversation are about 65db and things like concerts can reach 110db, so when using this piece of machinery, it is best practice to wear ear defenders or hearing protection. Also, never listen to your music above 60% of full volume. Cancelling out background noise by turning up the volume can cause long-term damage to your hearing and conditions such as tinnitus, which is irreversible.’ 

He adds: ‘Sounds are measured on a logarithmic scale, so an increase from 80db to 90db doesn’t mean that the sound has increased by 10% but rather that it has increased tenfold. In other words, a sound at 90db is ten times louder than a sound at 80db.’

While you can’t control the volume on a lot of these appliances, you can reduce your exposure to them by limiting the amount of time you spend using them.

‘This is particularly important for those that have a sound level over 105db, as anything above this will begin to damage your hearing, warns Mr Harrison.

As the UK’s largest audiologists, Specsavers continues to provide urgent and essential services to its customers. If you have any concerns about your hearing, call your local store for support and advice. You can also visit www.specsavers.co.uk/hearing for information, expert advice, and a free online hearing test or use the Specsavers Facebook Ask The Expert group. Alternatively, you can speak to an audiologist via video or telephone link using Specsavers’ new RemoteCare service.