• WorkScreen

Could a Secret Agent be About to Rescue your Hearing?

Today is the biggest cinematic experience of the last two years... James Bond has been let out of his celluloid can for our pleasure. But without a bit of vital intel, your trip to the flicks might be riskier than you first imagine.


Licence to Bang on about Hearing Health

Folk in occupational health, hearing health experts and audiologists love to bang on about hearing health. It's what gets us up in the morning and what puts bread on the table. “Sexy, it ain’t” as they used to say. But perhaps the World’s most famous secret agent has something to offer here.

James Bond is back on screen: it’s been 5 whole years since Spectre and – frankly - most of us have forgotten what a cinema looks like, let alone the wonderful things that happen when you mix the blue slushpuppie AND the red one. (Your kids go bananas for a start).


Big Screens = Big Entertainment?

So the question is of course is what is the best way of enjoying this mega-$million extravaganza of (we assume) cars, flesh, explosions and moody looks to camera? How will we best experience Daniel Craig's last outing as 007?

The BBC’s Evan Davis said something interesting about this after his viewing. And the surprise was that it wasn’t how much you can legally charge for a hotdog.

Nor was the size of the screen particularly exciting, because these days everyone has got a whopper. And to make it look bigger, you can always just sit a little closer (with apologies to all opticians).


Licence to Shrill.

In fact, for Evan, it was the sound that made the difference.

Hundreds of watts of immersive sound is a pretty compelling difference versus home-spun movie nights. And unless you're pathologically anti-social to your neighbours, big sound delivers an experience that is going to remain unique to the cinema.

Feeling the bass and full sound definition, with high highs and rumbling lows is a visceral, physical experience. Surely it’s a good thing to be alive when your shirt is rippling in time with 007’s latest explosion? This celebration of sound – like any banging party or nightclub - is simply not replicable at home.

But when the volume in a cinema regularly exceeds what is considered safe, what are health and safety professionals to make of this?


Celebrating The Goody

During today’s UKHCA meeting it was generally agreed that talking about hearing health only in terms of hearing loss and the negative effects of noise does not do justice to the positives aspects of sound – and even loud noise - in our lives.

Let’s face it, after the last 18 months, any positive experiences should be celebrated. Which is why it’s important to point out that - contrary to most commentary – it is possible to reconcile noise with safe listening.

There is (within reason and subject to avoiding extremely loud noise levels) a way to enjoy noise in safety.


Rules of Engagement

Noise safety is about managing your exposure - i.e. it is a factor of the duration of noise, AS WELL AS the loudness.

If – for the purposes of this post - it is generally considered that the maximum safe daily noise dose is 85dB for 8 hours, then you can safely experience lower volumes for longer. Or higher volumes for shorter periods of time (not too loud though, and remember that the safe exposure time doubles with every 3dB (no I didn’t want to go into that here either)).

Which all means that if you are exposed to 85dB throughout your 8-hour working day, then you spending 3 hours watching James Bond and experiencing the cacophony of explosions that will ensue may not be a good idea. And loud noise in your hourly commute won’t help matters.

On the other hand – if you take it easy at work, you should have room in the tank for a film with the volume cranked up.

So - if you are exposed to noise at work – then your potential to enjoy noisy hobbies in safety will be curtailed unless you reduce the duration or volume of noise. Which is important because your hobbies are your choice and your work environment isn’t. Which is why there are laws to protect you and hearing protection & surveillance to keep an eye on things.


Beating the Baddie

So there you have it: we can enjoy the loud sounds we want to (up to a point), by reducing our exposure to noise elsewhere in the day. A strict noise diet, if you will.