Skydiving & hearing loss: Matthew Allsop on hearing protection

Harley Street Hearing Partner, Matthew Allsop, not only has a passion for audiology and helping others but also a huge passion for skydiving.

He recently shared his love for the adrenaline-filled sport in this Hearing Tracker article, but he does have concerns for the safety of skydivers in the UK.

In this article, Matthew will cover the risks of hearing loss after skydiving and why hearing protection is essential yet often overlooked.

matthew allsop audiologist skydiving

Skydiving safety measures

As you’re standing in the pen getting ready to jump, for your own safety British Skydiving enforces the following checks (which need to be signed off by another jumper before you can jump):

1. Legs straps
2. Hook knife
3. Small ring, middle ring, big ring, yellow thing
4. AAD on
5. Happy with your pull?
6. Helmet
7. Alti set to zero
8. Audible (if you’re a freefly hero)
9. Chest strap
10. Positive attitude (OK that’s only if I check you)

…and as a result, the safety record in the UK is exemplary, right?

However, there’s one critical safety check that isn’t made…

11. Hearing protection

matthew allsop hearing protection for skydiving

Hearing risks associated with skydiving

Without protecting your ears, there’s the chance of developing permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, AND as a result (believe it or not): cognitive decline, social isolation, depression, and dementia.

Recently I measured up to 105 dB in the plane on the way to altitude. Answer me this, why is the ‘Action level’ for noise exposure on the ground 80dB (meaning that hearing protection should be made available), yet nothing is enforced to protect skydivers’ ears when the levels can reach more than 25dB above this?

Due to the logarithmic scale that sound is measured, for every 3dB above the ‘action levels’, you can half the duration that you can be exposed to those levels before it will cause permanent damage to your hearing. In theory, this means that after around 2 minutes in a plane on the way to altitude you will exceed your daily ‘noise allowance’ and cause irreversible damage to your hearing.

Yes, there is an argument for ‘personal responsibility’. Those of you thinking “If people want to look after their ears they can do it themselves.” Yes, I get it, but there are another 9 checks outlined above that British Skydiving makes mandatory, so why not add another? There is ZERO education on hearing loss during skydiving training, so how should skydivers know about hearing protection and the dangers of noise exposure?

Working with those with hearing loss every day, I get to see the impact that it has. Let me tell you, it’s not pretty, and one of my missions is to protect the hearing of skydivers so they don’t end up sitting in my clinic room one day.

sound level exposure during skydiving

Matthew’s #hearforyears campaign

This is the beginning of my #hearforyears campaign. I’m pushing for the flight line check to include hearing protection before a jump and I’m reaching out to anyone at British Skydiving to lead the World on this and take our safety standards to the next level.

Get custom hearing protection

If you’re a keen skydiver or participate in any sport that may cause damage to your ears, investing in hearing protection is crucial. Custom hearing protection is superior to off-the-shelf products as they are moulded to the shape of your ear, therefore offering tailored protection.

Harley Street Hearing can offer custom hearing protection for any individual need. Concerns about your hearing? Get in touch with us to book an appointment.

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