The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified that globally, 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening procedures. WHO studies have shown that roughly half of all teenagers and young adults from middle to high-income countries are exposed to unsafe levels through usage of personal audio devices and close to 40% are exposed to potentially damaging sound levels at clubs, discotheques, and bars.
As personal audio devices and smartphones become more accessible, prolonged usage levels at higher volumes has made recreational noise exposure a serious threat to hearing loss. Read on to learn more about noise-induced hearing loss and safe listening tips.
Noise-induced Hearing Loss & Safe Listening
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises. The ear’s sensory cells become damaged to such sounds and could result in temporary hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing of the ears). If temporary, the hearing improves as the cells recalibrate. If one is exposed to an extremely single burst of noise, it could lead to permanent, irreversible hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss can impact an individual’s social, professional, and educational life in negative ways. Furthermore, increased psychological stress, anxiety, and isolation could stem from living in constantly noisy environments. The impacts for children are even greater as NIHL could hinder language acquisition. Learning disorders, anxiety, and attention-seeking behaviors are also consequences of hearing loss among children. This ultimately leads to negative academic performance. Youth facing noise-induced hearing loss will also experience age-related hearing loss. Failure to use necessary hearing protection during sporting events, concerts, or even listening to music too loudly during adolescence could very well lead to major communication challenges later in life.
Safe listening is a method of mitigating noise-induced hearing loss by lowering the intensity or loudness of sound, and lessening the duration and frequency of listening. Understanding the safe decibel (dB) levels and how long one should be listening for is important. The World Health Organization recommends that the highest level of noise exposure in the workplace is 85 dB for up to eight hours per day.
Social and event environments such as nightclubs, bars, or sporting events are at a much higher decibel level than 85, and those attending such events should therefore reduce the duration of exposure. For example, exposure to noise levels of 100 dB, which is typical in such venues, is safe for no more than 15 minutes. If you find yourself being exposed to such higher levels and are unable to leave, it is vital to bring hearing protection at these events.
WHO’s International Ear Care Day & “Make Listening Safe” Initiative
The World Health Organization, in recognition of International Ear Care Day, has launched the “Make Listening Safe” initiative. Their aims are to draw attention to the dangers of unsafe listening and at the same time promote safer listening practices. WHO has collaborated with global partners to raise awareness among youth and their families about the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss as well as pushing governments to take include this specific issue in their broader hearing loss preventative policies.
Within the World Health Organization’s “Make Listening Safe” initiative, they provide actionable preventative steps towards noise-induced hearing loss among not only children, but all people. These steps include:
Keeping Down the Volume!
- Youth and adults should determine safe listening levels on their personal audio device
- Earplugs should be worn in noisy environments; use fitted, and if possible, noise cancelling earphones.
Be Cognizant of Time While Engaged in Noisy Activities!
- If you’re in noisy places or venues, be sure to take short listening breaks and move away from loud sounds
- Try to limit the daily use of personal audio devices to <1 hour/day
Heed the Warning Signs of Hearing Loss!
- If you are experiencing ringing in the ears, this is called tinnitus, and you should seek out a hearing professional
- If you have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds, understanding speech on telephone, following conversations in noisy venues, this may be to noise-induced hearing loss.
Other Tips and Tricks
- Download and use smartphone apps to monitor safe listening levels.
- Urge parents, teachers and physicians to educate young people about safe listening
- Push with managers of entertainment venues to respect safe noise level set by venue, use sound limiters, offer earplugs and “chill out” rooms to patrons
- Work with manufacturers to design personal audio devices with safety features, display information about safe listening on products and packaging
- Pressure government to develop and enforce strict legislation on recreational noise, launch public information campaigns
- Get regular hearing check-ups!
If you or a loved one has trouble hearing or is living with hearing loss, reach out to Worth Hearing and one of our professionals will be able to help you. Whether it’s a hearing test to understanding your hearing condition to getting fitted with a hearing instrument or device to improve your hearing, we will be able to figure out what path is best for you!