Hearing Loss

Your headphones are making you deaf, says study

Ear Health News

Young people are especially at risk due to their use of personal listening devices (PLDs), such as smartphones, headphones, and earbuds, and their attendance at loud music venues in the context of lax regulatory enforcement.

Washington: A study published in the journal BMJGlobal Health found that over one billion teenagers and young adults may be at risk for hearing loss due to headphones and earbuds and attendance at loud music venues. Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, part of the international team, noted that governments worldwide need to prioritize “safe listening” policies to protect aural health.

According to the study’s authors, governments, businesses, and civil society must prioritize preventing global hearing loss by promoting safe listening habits.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 430 million people worldwide currently suffer from incapacitating hearing loss. They claimed that young people are particularly vulnerable due to their use of personal listening devices (PLDs), such as smartphones, headphones, and earbuds, as well as their attendance at loud music venues under lax regulatory enforcement.

While the typical sound levels at entertainment venues ranging from 104 to 112 decibels (dB), previous research suggests that PLD users frequently choose volumes as high as 105 dB.

Even if only for brief periods, this is much louder than the permitted sound levels of 80 dB for adults and 75 dB for children. To estimate the overall number of people at risk of hearing loss, the researchers measured the prevalence of unsafe listening behaviors among teens and young adults.

They searched through research databases for pertinent studies involving 12- to 34-year-olds that reported on objectively measured device output levels and length of exposure. The studies had to be published in English, French, Spanish, or Russian. 

Thirty-three studies totaling data from 35 records and 19,046 participants made up the research. Seventeen papers dealt with PLD usage, and 18 records dealt with loud entertainment locations.

By taking into account the projected global population of 12- to 34-year-olds in 2022 (2.8 billion) and the best projections of exposure to unsafe listening practices from PLDs or loud entertainment venues, the researchers also estimated the number of individuals who could be at risk of hearing loss.

According to the study, attendance at loud entertainment venues and unsafe listening habits like PLD use is very common among teens and young people worldwide at rates of 24% and 48%, respectively.

According to the researchers’ estimates, between 0.67 and 1.35 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide may be at risk of developing hearing loss.

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