35% of people say the cause of tinnitus is loud noise – but few protect their ears

We are calling for people to protect their ears when at work or around noisy activities

By Joanna March · February 5, 2023

Tinnitus UK is calling for people to protect their ears when at work or enjoying noisy leisure activities, as new data shows 35% of people with tinnitus say their condition was caused by being around loud noises. 

One in seven adults are affected by tinnitus – which is a condition that causes the perception of noise when there is no external source. Studies suggest the number of people with tinnitus will grow by half a million over the next decade. There is currently no cure for the condition. 

Now, a new report from Tinnitus UK, marking the start of #TinnitusWeek 2023 (6-12 February), calls for people to protect their ears, which will reduce the damage caused by excessive noise exposure. This damage includes tinnitus and hearing loss, both of which can be permanent. 

The report, ‘A lot to lose: noise exposure and tinnitus’, which includes new research of almost 800 people with tinnitus, reveals that over a third (35%) of people believe their tinnitus was caused by loud noise exposure. This could mean that 2.7 million adults in the UK had their condition triggered by noise. Surprisingly, twice as many men (48%) as women (24%) claim noise exposure as a trigger. 

Shockingly, four out of ten (39%) respondents who were exposed to noise at work “never” used hearing protection and only a quarter (24%) “always” or “sometimes” used hearing protection. 

There are similarly low levels of use of hearing protection for leisure activities.  

Despite power tools such as drills reaching 100dB (20dB over the safe sound level), only a quarter (26%) of DIYers “regularly” or “sometimes” use hearing protection. Even fewer – 23% of attendees – use hearing protection at live music events, where safe exposure times can be as short as 1 minute, as levels can reach over 112dB. 

Motorcyclists are also putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and hearing loss when out on their motorbikes, with only a third (29%) “regularly” or “sometimes” using hearing protection. 

Tinnitus UK also asked about activities that many do not realise can reach harmful noise levels. Some Tube lines can reach almost 110dB, yet less than one in ten (8%) of Tube users “regularly” or “sometimes” use hearing protection. Some hairdryers can reach 95dB at high speed, but only 8% of people use hearing protection when drying their hair. 

Caroline Savage, Interim Chief Executive of Tinnitus UK said: “Noise exposure is the single biggest preventable cause of tinnitus, and it is clear from our research that people appear to be unaware of the risks. If you’re doing something that’s loud, even for a couple of minutes, use hearing protection. If When it’s loud… Plug’em is our very clear message.  

She added “We’re not here to stop people taking part in activities that they enjoy, but to make sure that they enjoy them safely. We want protecting your ears to be second nature – the same way we put on sunscreen and sunglasses in the summer or belt up when we get in the car. There should be no stigma around using ear plugs or ear defenders – we only have one pair of ears, and damage to our hearing is irreversible.” 

More information about noise exposure and hearing protection can be found on our website. Tinnitus UK’s team of trained advisers are able to offer help and support on 0800 018 0527 or via live webchat (see icon to the right of the screen). 


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