For some young people, nightclubs and other music venues are a major source of noise exposure, arising from a combination of very high noise levels; relatively long attendance duration; and frequent, sustained participation over several years. Responsibility for hearing protection is largely left to individuals, many of whom choose not to wear earplugs. In order to encourage earplug use in these settings, a new approach is needed. The aim of the study was to examine whether presentation of hearing health information would result in increased use of earplugs, or whether provision of earplugs alone would be sufficient to change behaviour. A total of 51 regular patrons of music venues were allocated to either a low-information (lo-info) or high-information (hi-info) group. Both groups completed a survey about their current noise exposure, earplug usage and perceived risk of hearing damage. Both groups were also provided with one-size-fits-all filtered music earplugs. The hi-info group was also provided with audio-visual and written information about the risks of excessive noise exposure. After 4 weeks, and again after an additional 12 weeks, participants were asked about their recent earplug usage, intention to use earplugs in the future, and perceived risk of hearing damage. The results showed that after 4 weeks, the hi-info group's perceived personal risk of hearing damage was significantly higher than that of the lo-info group. After 16 weeks, these differences were no longer evident; however, at both 4 and 16 weeks, both the lo- and hi-info groups were using the earplugs equally often; and both groups intended to use earplugs significantly more often in the future. This suggests that the information was unnecessary to motivate behavioural change. Rather, the simple act of providing access to earplugs appears to have effectively encouraged young at-risk adults to increase their earplug use.
Keywords: behavioural change; concerts; earplugs; health behaviour; health promotion; hearing loss; loud music; music venues; nightclubs; noise; noise-induced hearing loss; prevention; soft paternalism; tinnitus.
© The Author(s) 2015.