A reduced capacity to communicate has a significant impact on relationships, career opportunities, social connection, independent living and quality of life.

Hearing assessment

How do I know if I have a hearing loss?

Hearing loss is common, particularly as you become older. In Australia, research has shown that one person in five over 60 years old will have a hearing loss; over the age of 70, one person in three. Most hearing losses develop gradually, making it difficult to self diagnose.

You may have a hearing loss if you have noticed the following:

  • increased difficulty distinguishing speech in noisy environments
  • a history of exposure to industrial noise without hearing protection
  • a family history of developing a hearing loss
  • family or spouse comments on your hearing difficulties
  • frequently asking people to repeat themselves
  • struggling to understand a whisper or softly spoken person
  • struggling to hear conversation from a distance
  • increased volume for TV and radio compared to others
  • difficulties hearing on the telephone
  • missing the telephone or door bell

What are the possible effects of a hearing loss?

  • impaired communication with family, friends, at work
  • fatigue and cognitive load from the effort of listening
  • social isolation
  • an increased awareness of tinnitus
  • the emotional impact of all the above

Hearing assessment

We carry out a range of hearing assessments. The cost of the assessment will depend on the level of detail required and therefore on the time we spend assessing your hearing. You do not need a medical referral for a hearing assessment.

The results of your hearing assessment will be clearly explained to you, and a detailed report written if required.

A hearing screening test is a basic test of hearing levels, and requires a 15 minute appointment.

If the hearing screening test shows the presence of a hearing loss, or a drop in hearing levels compared to a previous test, a full hearing assessment is recommended. For a child, a half hour appointment is required. If you have concerns about the way your child is processing or making sense of sound, a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) screening and evaluation can be carried out.

For an adult, a three quarter hour appointment is required for a full hearing assessment. If tinnitus (noises in the ears) is a dominant issue for you, please arrange a tinnitus evaluation appointment, which will often include a hearing assessment if this has not already been carried out.

If you are arranging a hearing assessment appointment with a view to the likely purchase of hearing aids, we request that a one and a half hour appointment is made, but will charge you for one hour. This allows time for:

  • a detailed discussion of your communication needs, your hearing test results, suitable hearing aid options for you and the level of benefit you can expect from hearing aid fitting.
  • if you wish to choose hearing aids at your initial appointment, we will have time to make ear impressions. Many people like time to consider their choice, and you will not be expected to make a decision at your initial appointment.

Wax removal

We have the training and equipment to remove a wax build-up using a probe, as long as it is not too deep in your ear canal. You will need to arrange a quarter hour appointment for this to be carried out. A build-up of wax can affect your hearing. It can cause reduced hearing aid performance; feedback (whistle) from your hearing aid; and damage to your hearing aid.

Customised ear plugs

We provide a range of custom-made ear plugs to fit the unique shape of each person's ear. An initial quarter hour appointment is required to make customised ear impressions. The plugs will be ready in up to two weeks, with a quarter hour appointment required for the fitting of the plugs. This is to ensure they fit correctly and for you to be instructed in correct insertion. The cost of the plugs includes both these appointments.

Customised ear plugs are available to provide:

  • hearing protection to high noise levels at work
  • hearing protection for musicians
  • as swim plugs for water protection. This is recommended for people with a history of ear canal and/or middle ear infection, or if a middle ear ventilation or grommet tube has been fitted. Swim plugs are designed to stop water getting into the ear while swimming at or near the surface of the water. They will not be effective if they are used 20 cm or more below the surface of the water, in rough surf, for diving, skin diving or vigorous water sports.

Hearing protection at work

For employees in high levels of industrial noise - that is, in an environment where the noise reaches or exceeds 85 dBA LAeq8h (evaluated by a qualified assessor using a sound level meter) - the employer is required to provide a noise control management strategy. This should include:

  • An attempt to reduce the noise levels
  • Information and training on noise management to minimise risk of hearing injury
  • Hearing protection (in the form of ear plugs and/or ear muffs)
  • A hearing screening test as soon as possible after starting the job and then every 2 years

What are the noise dose limits?

Under the Occupational Health and Safety (Noise) Regulations 1992, employers are required to ensure that employees are not exposed to noise exceeding prescribed noise dose limits.

dBA sound levelDuration per day
97 30 minutes
94 1 hour
91 2 hours
88 4 hours
86 6 hours
85 8 hours

Hearing assessment for workplace needs

How do I know if I have a hearing loss? We provide a hearing screening test, which is a basic test of hearing levels. The test results will be explained to the employee, and a report sent to the employer, with a copy provided for the employee.

If the hearing screening test shows the presence of a hearing loss, or a drop in hearing levels compared to the last test, a full hearing assessment is required. As WorkSafe Victoria accredited audiologists, we are able to carry this out, and will provide a detailed report subsequently.

A noise induced hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus (noises heard in the ears).

Hearing protection

For employees with normal hearing, there is a variety of hearing protection available in the form of ear plugs or ear muffs. They vary in the amount of protection provided, which should be matched to the noise dose in the workplace. Ear plugs need to fit correctly to be effective. We provide a range of custom made ear plugs to fit the unique shape of each person's ear. These include solid silicon rubber plugs, or hard acrylic "flat attenuation"plugs.

If the noise hazard is moderate (up to 100 to 105 dB leq 8), we can provide "flat attenuation" hearing protection in the form of a custom moulded earplug with an acoustic filter. They are designed to be worn all day and provide a baseline level of protection, with additional protection from ear muffs required for periods of exposure to higher noise levels. They allow easier communication once in place compared to solid earplugs, are easy to fit correctly, have a long life and are very comfortable to wear.

For employees with a hearing loss, there are safety issues in the workplace to consider. The use of conventional ear muffs and ear plugs will distort high frequency sounds, leading to reduced understanding of speech and reduced awareness of high frequency warning signals. Depending on the total noise dose the employee is experiencing, either active noise reduction (ANR) ear muffs or flat attenuation custom ear plugs are recommended.

Hearing protection supply companies, listed in the telephone directory under "Safety Equipment and Accessories", have a range of ear muffs fitted with active noise reduction (ANR) electronics. These are designed to electronically amplify certain sounds, such as voices and warning signals, in a noisy environment. However, they are heavier and cost significantly more than conventional ear muffs.

WorkSafe Victoria entitlement

The NAL (1988) Binaural Percentage Loss of Hearing guidelines are used to calculate the degree of compensable hearing loss. In the calculation of hearing loss attributable to noise damage, there will be a deduction related to age. Deductions can also made if part of the hearing loss is caused by conditions other than noise exposure. An Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist opinion is needed to determine the percentage of a hearing loss that is related to noise damage.

An employee is entitled to submit a WorkSafe claim for a noise induced hearing injury. To obtain financial compensation, as well as hearing rehabilitation, the Binaural Percentage Loss of Hearing needs to equal or exceed 10%. Below 10%, assistance in hearing rehabilitation only is available.

Hearing rehabilitation involves identifying the person's hearing needs and determining how they can best be met.

Hearing rehabilitation following a successful WorkSafe Victoria claim includes:

  • hearing aid fitting. Following a hearing assessment, we advise whether hearing aids are required and will give a recommendation for the type of hearing aids most suitable for the person's hearing loss and communication needs. The hearing aids will be provided and fitted once we have obtained approval from the WorkSafe Victoria insurance company.
  • all hearing aid maintenance costs, such as battery provision and repair costs
  • regular hearing re-assessment
  • replacement of hearing aids for the remainder of the person's life, whether they are still in the workplace or have retired (under current legislation).
  • provision of assistive listening devices, both at home and in the workplace. Assistive listening devices are available for the telephone, television, doorbells and alarms and can be used either instead of hearing aids or in addition to hearing aids.
  • provision of devices to support any safety problems that may occur as a result of the hearing loss, such as active noise reduction (ANR) ear muffs, flat attenuation custom ear plugs and supplementary visual warning signals.
  • provision of acoustically treated meeting areas with low noise and low reverberation (echo) may be required in the workplace.

Hearing protection for musicians

Musicians, as well as other workers in the music industry, such as roadies, sound technicians, D.J.'s and bar staff, are regularly exposed to potentially dangerous levels of sound. Musicians in particular are exposed to high levels of sound from participating in recording sessions and rehearsals, as well as from playing and listening to other musicians.

All types of music from rock and roll to classical music pose some risks. An American study indicated peak noise levels of up to 130 dB on stage at rock concerts and 115 dB for the audience. In classical music performances the noise levels on stage can exceed 100 dB. The level of noise in many venues and nightclubs also exceeds these dangerous levels.

Did you know?...

Under the Occupational Health and Safety (Noise) Regulations 1992, employers are required to ensure that employees are not exposed to noise exceeding prescribed noise dose limits.

How do I know if music is too loud?

If you have to shout to be understood when practising, performing or listening to music, the likelihood is that the volume level is potentially damaging. Another indicator is noticing symptoms of temporary damage to your hearing after exposure to loud music. These include:

  • tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • muffled or distorted hearing for voices/music

If temporary damage occurs repeatedly, the damage will become permanent. And having a noise induced hearing loss will not protect you against on-going damage.

The risk of injury varies significantly amongst different performers, depending on the type of instrument(s) played, the degree of amplification used, the position on stage and the type of stage monitoring that is used. For example, drummers tend to have more damage to the ear closest to the crash cymbal, violinists experience more hearing damage on the side they hold the violin, and orchestra members closest to the wind and percussion section are at greater risk. People also vary significantly in their susceptibility to noise induced hearing injury.

What are the effects of noise injury?

How do I know if I have a hearing loss? Apart from the communication difficulties associated with a hearing loss, clear non-distorted hearing is essential to you as a musician. A noise-induced hearing injury also involves:

  • A reduced ability to follow changes in the pitch and time pattern of sounds
  • A distortion in the relative loudness of sounds
  • The risk of acquiring persistent tinnitus

What should I do?

In an ideal world, the problem should be easily resolved by just turning everything down. But, in the real world, many patrons and therefore promoters expect the music to be at high volume levels for full enjoyment. If you are exposed to sound at that volume level for more than a few hours per week, you are at risk of hearing damage.

As a musician you may not be able to change these expectations. You can, however, reduce your own risk of noise induced hearing injury by controlling your level of noise exposure when performing and when practising.

How can I protect my ears?

Musicians' Earplugs - There are several companies who have developed a range of personalised earplugs specially designed for musicians. We provide Etymotic Research ER and ACS Pro Series musicians earplugs. These earplugs are custom-fitted deep within the ear canal so they are comfortable to wear and are designed to minimise occlusion (sensation of blockage), with a filter positioned in a bore or open channel. There is a choice of interchangeable filters providing different levels of protection. The filters have a flat frequency response, which significantly reduces the high frequency distortion found with solid plugs, typically used with industrial noise protection. As a result, they provide attenuation (reduction) of sound without sacrificing the quality of music. They also reduce the feeling of detachment from other band members and the audience often noticed with solid plugs.

Personal ear protection, compared to radio-monitors, is relatively cheap, can be used in any environment and doesn't require the co-operation of other band members.

Radio Monitors - Another way of limiting the level of on-stage noise is an in-the-ear monitoring system, where your own vocal and instrument monitoring is fed directly to you via a radio signal to a small receiver worn in the ear. The level of sound in your ear can be controlled and noise levels on stage substantially reduced.

These systems are very effective at reducing the risk of hearing damage. We can provide ear impressions for ear moulds to be used with in-the-ear radio monitors.

How can we help? If you recognise any of the signs and symptoms of noise-induced hearing injury, contact us for a detailed hearing assessment. We can advise you about hearing conservation and ear protection measures that are appropriate for your needs.

The risk of damage varies significantly amongst different types of performers. Regular monitoring of your hearing is recommended to evaluate the effectiveness of your hearing protection strategies.

Hearing assessment

Hearing protection at work

Hearing protection for musicians

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