You are not alone. A lot of people complain about the level of the sound track in the cinema. There are limits to the levels of all types of sounds - most speakers have limiters on them for the output of the sound available. Determining when sounds become dangerous is a combination of the level of the sound and how long you are exposed to it . Anything over about 80dB can be dangerous if you are exposed to it for long enough (and sounds less than 80dB can certainly be very annoying). If it is uncomfortable for you then I would advise next time you are at the cinema (or go to see a band or engage in a noisy activity such as using power tools) then you should use hearing protection - earplugs can be slipped in quite easily - you should still be able to hear the movie soundtrack (often better) but at a lower level and cutting out some of the background noise. For power tools, earplugs or earmuffs can be used to reduce the sound pressure at the eardrum. You do need to be careful about how they are worn – hanging the earmuffs around the neck doesn’t help! The National Acoustics Laboratory website also has some great information on noise exposure at www.nal.gov.au.

There are no laws in Australia regarding hearing aid disposal. Up to 97% of hearing aid button cell batteries end up in household waste potentially causing damage to our health and the environment. Adding to this, the processes used to create and distribute batteries are not eco-friendly. Hearing aid batteries are typically made of zinc, mercury and steel and are called zinc air batteries. A typical hearing aid battery lasts a week. So if you are wearing two hearing aids, you will be using around 104 disposable hearing aid batteries a year.If you are using disposable batteries with your cochlear implant processor, which has greater power requirements, you would be using around 312 batteries for each processor. Many audiology clinics collect used batteries and forward them to the council for recycling. Unfortunately, Australia can only recycle car (lead-acid) batteries and all other types including hearing aid batteries are sent overseas for recycling.Some battery companies such as Hearing Aid Batteries Express have invested in a recycling bin from French utility company Suez Environnement. Used batteries can be forwarded to Habex (preferably by road mail) and they fund shipping to Suez Environnement for recycling. Adding to these sustainable projects, a European Union ban on mercury as a stabilizer in button cell batteries became effective from October 2015. Following the same ban in many US states, the EU ruling sends out a clear international message that mercury-containing batteries should not be manufactured or offered for sale. Where possible, look at rechargeable battery options. Not only are they cheaper for you, they are substantially less harmful for the environment.

Q: My wife has been having trouble hearing for a number of years. She just purchased new hearing aids and she is still saying: "Huh? and What?" The audiologist said she has poor word discrimination and that it would take up to six months to train her brain. Can you please explain?

A: Poor word discrimination is the fancy way to say she has trouble understanding speech even if the volume of the voice is loud enough. You may ask, "What good is the hearing aid if it can't help her understand me?" For her to be able to try and understand your speech she first has to be able to hear it. A hearing aid will help this. It cannot restore or repair a poor ability to understand as this usually has more to do with the way the sound travels through the hearing system and particularly up the nerve pathways to the brain than the amount of sound delivered at the eardrum.

Q: Why does my Nucleus 5/6 activate whenever I’m on or near a Melbourne tram?

A: If a cochlear implant recipient is using Autotelecoil they may find that the telecoil activates when they enter a looped area. This can sometimes be surprising if the looped area is not obvious e.g. a train station, tram, exhibition at a museum etc. Also if the telecoil is enabled the wearer may be more susceptible to interference from the environment.