We sent Double J’s Zan Rowe to get a hearing test. Here’s what happened
In a quiet room in a Sydney office block, Zan Rowe is experiencing some trepidation.
The Double J radio presenter and long-time music journalist has been going to gigs for two decades, sometimes standing so close to the speaker stack she feels like her organs are vibrating.
But she’s never had her hearing tested. Until now.
“I’m going put some headphones on you, and I’m going to play some sounds, and I’m going to get you to push a button every time you hear a sound,” Simone Punch, a special audiologist with Australian Hearing, tells Rowe.
The damage done
The test, which takes about 10 minutes, is the same one available to any music fan who feels like they’ve had a few too many nights that ended with a ringing in the ears.
And while the rules are less clear when it comes to live music environments.
Any more than 15 minutes of sound at 100 decibels, a standard level for a pub gig, is dangerous to your ears.
“I think we are really good at protecting our ears in work situations, anywhere where there is industrial noise,” Ms Punch says.
“But I think we still have a long way to go with sounds that we enjoy, like music.”
Don’t pump up the volume
It’s not just about live music, either.
Ms Punch says people who use ear buds on public transport can be tempted to turn the volume up to drown out the natural sound.
That’s bad, she says. Get noise-cancelling headphones instead.
“I have stood behind people [on trains] and thought, ‘Oh dear, I am going to see you in a few years’ time in my office’.”
After her appointment, Rowe will be fitted with moulded ear protection devices — made from a green substance that looks not unlike play dough — which lower the volume without spoiling the sound.
First, though, there’s the little matter of the test results.
Suddenly: “I think I heard something.”
Ms Punch watches on, and confirms that, yes, you did hear something — a very quiet tone played through the headphones.
That means you passed the test.
“Oh man, what a relief,” Rowe says. “Does that mean, on this basis of this hearing test, I’ve gotten away with murder?”
“I hope so,” the audiologist replies, but there’s no definitive way to tell — hearing damage is cumulative. It can show up later on.
In the meantime, she says, wear your ear plugs — and stay away from the speaker stack.
This content was originally published here.