Health Uncategorized

1 billion young people risk hearing loss due to loud music over headphones

hearing loss

HQ Team

November 17, 2022:More than 1 billion young people between the ages of 13 and 34 are at risk of hearing loss due to the widespread use of personal listening devices and exposure at loud entertainment venues, according to a study published in the journal BMJ Global Health.

An international team of academics reviewed more than 30 studies in 20 countries involving more than 20, 000 people. “We estimated that 0.67 to 1.35 billion individuals aged 12-34 years worldwide likely engage in unsafe listening practices,” and are therefore at risk for hearing loss, said lead study author Lauren Dillard via email. Dillard is a consultant to the World Health Organization and a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Volume under 80 decibels is considered safe for adults, and children are advised to keep it below 75 decibels. Hearing experts say that volume over 85 decibels is likely to cause hearing damage. Yet up to half of the people regularly listen to volume as high as 1112 decibels. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pegs safe noise levels at around 85 decibels over 40 hours a week. If you are listening for only 2½ hours over a day, that is equivalent to about 92 decibels, the study said.

Based on the metanalysis of the studies, the researchers estimate that the global number of teens and young adults who could potentially be at risk of hearing loss ranges from 670million to 1.35billion. 

The inner ear structure called the cochlea has nearly 15,000 tiny hairs that vibrate with sound. Over-stimulating these tiny hairs in the ears by listening to loud music can cause permanent damage. These hair cells do not regenerate; hence any damage to this part of the ear is permanent, leading to loss of hearing.

Researchers combined data from 2001 to 2021 and found twenty-four per cent of people ages 12 to 34 were exposed to dangerously high volumes from using headphones and other personal listening devices, while 48 per cent of them were vulnerable to damage from live music venues.

The researchers said that listeners often choose volumes as high as 105 decibels on their devices and venues often range from 104 to 112 decibels.

As there are roughly 2.8 billion people aged 12 to 34 worldwide, the team estimated that up to 1.35 billion people in that age group are at risk of hearing loss.

Headphones that cancel background noise

Experts recommend using headphones that reduce background noise, as they help keep the volume at lower levels since there is less outside noise interference. Moreover, some smart devices come with in-built warnings if the volume is raised beyond certain levels. Another recommendation is to use some form of ear protection, such as a foam pad over the listening device helps. Take short breaks away from your plug-ins.

The World Health Organization, which supported the research, estimates that over 430 million people worldwide currently have disabling hearing loss.

The researchers and the global agency both expressed concern about the hearing loss risk involved in exposure to high levels of sound. 

The WHO issued safe noise guidelines for European countries in 2019, citing excess noise as ‘an important public health issue.’ It also runs a ‘Make Listening Safe’ campaign to raise awareness of noise-induced hearing loss and advocates for interventions that protect people from excess noise.

‘There is an urgent need for governments, industry and civil society to prioritise global hearing loss prevention by promoting safe listening practices,’ the report said.

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