Britons risk permanent hearing damage for enjoyment

  • Half (51%) of Britons listen to mobile devices above the volume warning. This is highest amongst youths, with three quarters (76%) of those aged 18-24 saying they do this
  • 29% of Britons do not protect their hearing so as to increase enjoyment of an activity
  • Behaviour may impact ability to participate in a world increasingly built on voice and sound
  • Launch of “Hearing Matters” awareness campaign

LONDON--()--An alarming number of Britons are intentionally exposing themselves to dangerous levels of noise, risking permanent hearing loss, simply to increase their enjoyment of an experience such as watching a concert or movie.

The findings come from The State of Hearing report supported by Cochlear, the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, to understand people's attitudes and behaviors towards their hearing.

The report uncovered a concerning range of risk-taking activity amongst Britons that could see an increased number of people suffer hearing loss – which can lead to development difficulties for children, and early cognitive decline in adults, including dementia.

The results come ahead of World Hearing Day on 3 March, which is an initiative from the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness about deafness prevention and hearing loss, and promote ear and hearing care across the world. The 2018 theme for World Hearing Day is ‘Hear the Future’. According to the WHO, hearing loss affects more than 5% of the world’s population – approximately 466 million people.

We know hearing loss can affect people’s relationships, education and work, and mental health. We should also consider the future because new challenges will arise as our world changes. For example, hearing will matter more than ever in a world increasingly built around voice and sound. We only need to look at the rising popularity of devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and appliances like TVs and refrigerators that now have virtual assistants built into them, to see what challenges this could create for a hearing impaired population,” said Stuart Thomas, General Manager UK at Cochlear.

There will always be a segment of the population with unavoidable hearing loss, for whom there are a range of solutions. However, most people have a choice when it comes to maintaining healthy hearing.

Hearing empowers us and enriches our lives, but regrettably hearing loss represents a global silent epidemic with 466 million people living with disabling hearing loss worldwide. World Hearing Day and this report draw attention to the importance of healthy hearing now and in the future. Importantly, it alerts those with hearing loss about the benefit of early identification and intervention.”

"Like riding a bike without a helmet"

According to Cochlear’s State of Hearing report, 38% of UK respondents admit to knowingly exposing themselves to potentially dangerous levels of noise.

A majority (65%) have simply not taken precautions in environments they feel could be damaging to their hearing.

Almost one in three (29%) respondents do so to increase their enjoyment of an activity, such as attending a concert or watching a movie. This response from UK participants is the highest level amongst the countries surveyed; and most concerningly, is despite respondents acknowledging that events are the place they are most frequently exposed to dangerous levels of noise.

"It's surprising that people are taking avoidable risks in an environment they know can impact their hearing health. It's like riding a bike without a helmet," said Mr. Thomas.

Hear today, gone tomorrow

Half (51%) of British respondents are listening to their mobile devices above the volume warning. This is highest amongst those aged 18-24, with three quarters (76%) saying they do this.

One reason behind this behaviour could be people believing they are too young to be affected, as 19% of respondents believe that hearing impairment is a natural part of the ageing process.

Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate and can become an issue no matter your age or lifestyle. It’s important to take care of your hearing throughout your life to ensure that you can enjoy your favourite activities well into later years,” said Mr. Thomas.

People fear help

Two-thirds (67%) of UK respondents believe there is some barrier to protecting their hearing more – from not knowing where to seek out a test or fearing what they might discover after visiting a medical professional.

There are simple, common sense ways to protect your hearing in everyday life. Lowering the volume on personal devices, and taking protective measures at concerts or events or when mowing the lawn are all steps in the right direction. Those who are concerned with their, a friend’s or loved one’s hearing should seek out a healthcare professional,” said Mr. Thomas.

The impact and warning signs

The warnings are made all the clearer when considering the responses of those who already have been diagnosed as having a hearing impairment and do not have a hearing aid, assisted listening device or hearing implant. Of this group:

  • 46% agree that their hearing impairment has made social interactions awkward and/ or frustrating
  • 40% agree that it has caused them to avoid some social settings
  • A quarter (26%) say that it has created problems at work
  • 18% say that it has prevented them from taking part in activities
  • 22% say that it has negatively impacted their mental health
  • 23% say that it has placed additional stress on friends, family or colleagues

60% of people surveyed who don’t have a cochlear implant said they would address hearing loss if it impacted their ability to understand or interact with friends, family or colleagues. 45% of Britons would only address their hearing loss if it was accompanied by pain.

Most hearing loss is gradual and painless, which means people may not be seeking treatment when they need it. Cochlear is supporting the call for action on hearing loss with its 'Hearing Matters' awareness campaign. 'Hearing Matters' invokes everyone to preserve hearing health and to address hearing loss as commonly as they would visual impairment. Anyone that is concerned about their hearing should seek the help of a healthcare professional, as there are many opportunities for treatment and care,” said Mr. Thomas.


Note to editors

About the State of Hearing report

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 7,212 adults that do not have a cochlear implant across the United Kingdom (2,105), Germany (2,112), The Netherlands (982), Italy (978) and Sweden (1,035). Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st-17th December 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of adults (aged 18+). An even weighting was applied to each country to find an 'overall average'.

About World Hearing Day the Hearing Matters campaign

World Hearing Day is held on 3 March each year to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world. More information can be found at

Joining with advocacy organisations, professional and aid organisations, Cochlear is supporting the call for action on hearing loss with its “Hearing Matters” awareness campaign. “Hearing Matters” invokes everyone to preserve hearing health and to address hearing loss as commonly as they would visual impairment. On a dedicated website, selected people from the UK report how addressing their hearing loss has allowed them to hear the precious moments in life. More information can be found at

About Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH)

Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions. The company has a global workforce of more than 3,000 people and invests more than AUD$120 million a year in research and development. Products include hearing systems for cochlear implants, bone conduction and acoustic implants, which are designed to treat a range of moderate to profound types of hearing loss.

Over 450,000 people of all ages, across more than 100 countries, now hear because of Cochlear.


For further information please contact
Kate Tagge, +44 (0) 7792 243 681


For further information please contact
Kate Tagge, +44 (0) 7792 243 681