Hearing loss at a young age has been a big topic of conversation in recent years. New findings reveal a global prevalence of unsafe listening practices that place a large group of individuals at risk of hearing loss.
It has become crucial to explore the habits contributing to the decline in young people’s hearing health. Also more importantly, to identify preventive measures that can mitigate the risks of noise-induced hearing loss.
What is the current status of young people’s hearing health?
A study published by BMJ Global Health found that, “unsafe listening practices are highly prevalent worldwide and may place over 1 billion young people at risk of hearing loss.” In this study unsafe listening practices refers to exposure to personal listening devices (PLDs) and loud entertainment venues.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “among teenagers and young adults aged 12–35 years in middle and high-income countries – Nearly 50% are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices. Around 40% are exposed to potentially damaging sound levels at clubs, discotheques and bars.”
Health.com reported that, “according to Tracy Winn, AuD, a clinical audiologist at the Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning at Northwestern University…there are two factors with any noise exposure that can determine if it causes damage: how loud it is and how much time you’re exposed to it. There is evidence out there that shows that even more moderate noise, if you are exposed to it all the time, you can still have damage.”
What habits contribute to declining hearing health?
The habits contributing to the decline in young people’s hearing health, and increasing the risk of hearing loss at a young age, are diverse and often go unnoticed. These can include listening to music at high volumes through earbuds or headphones, attending loud concerts or music events, going to nightclubs and bars, or going to a sporting event.
At nightclubs and bars, average sound levels can range from 104 to 112 dB; noise levels at pop concerts may be even higher. Patrons may expose themselves to the same level of loudness in 15 minutes of music at 100 dB that an industrial worker gets in an 8-hour day at 85 dB. Noise levels at sporting venues have been found to range from 80 dB to 117 dB. Even a short duration of exposure to high-decibel levels such as these can be harmful. – (WHO)
What can we do to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss?
To mitigate the risks of noise-induced hearing loss, it’s essential for young people to adopt healthier listening habits. WHO reports that, “some people may be more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss than others. Genetic predisposition, chronic conditions such as diabetes and exposure to cigarette smoke are known to increase the risk of acquiring noise induced hearing loss. Because we cannot tell who the most susceptible individuals are, prevention is the most effective way to avoid such hearing loss.”
Here are some habits to introduce to help prevent hearing loss:
- Limit exposure to loud environments: Avoid prolonged exposure to loud concerts, events, or noisy venues without using ear protection. Give your ears time to recover.
- Use noise-limiting or noise-canceling headphones responsibly: Invest in headphones designed to limit the volume and provide effective noise cancellation. Additionally, take breaks to give your ears a rest, especially during extended listening sessions.
- Follow the 60/60 rule: When using headphones, adhere to the 60/60 rule—listen at no more than 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time. This simple guideline can significantly reduce the risk of hearing damage.
- Take regular breaks: Give your ears a break from continuous exposure to sound. Allow them time to recover and regenerate after listening to music or being in a noisy environment.
- Use devices enabled with personalized sound: By using headphones that are personalized to your hearing ability, you can bring back the details without the need to turn up the volume. You can reduce listening fatigue, and enhance your overall sound experience.
- Test your hearing regularly: You can download the Mimi Hearing Test app if you are curious about your current hearing health. It takes just a few minutes, and can be done on a smartphone or tablet. After completing the test you will receive individualized results about your hearing.
As technology continues to shape the way we experience music and entertainment, it’s crucial to prioritize our hearing health, be aware of the potential risks associated with our listening habits, and take proactive steps to protect our auditory wellbeing.
By adopting responsible listening practices and making informed choices, everyone can enjoy the gift of music without compromising their long-term hearing health.
It’s time to turn the volume down and listen up to the importance of preserving our hearing for a lifetime of listening.
The information contained in this article shall neither be considered as nor replace professional health or medical advice and is for educational and informational purposes only. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions or concerns you may have about your hearing or medical conditions.