A new study from the WHO found that over 1 billion individuals ages 12-34 are at risk for hearing loss due to overexposure to personal listening devices (PLDs) and loud entertainment venues such as concerts and sporting events.
These findings were published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) earlier this month. Unsafe listening practices include listening to sound that is too loud for too long without proper hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs. To put this in perspective, a rock concert can reach up to 110 dB, at loudness which, according to the WHO, is only safe to listen to for 2.5 minutes!
Compiling data from 33 different studies of over 19,000 individuals published between 2000 and 2021, researchers organized accounts of unsafe listening practices from PLDs and loud entertainment venues among young individuals. They then used mathematical models to find the total prevalence of unsafe listening practices for each risky behavior. Their analysis found that globally, there is a combined prevalence of 23.8% of overexposure to loud PLDs and a combined prevalence of 48.2% of exposure to too-loud noise at entertainment venues. Taken together, this means that approximately 1 billion of the world’s 2.8 billion individuals ages 12-34 are at risk for hearing loss from unsafe listening practices.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a serious public health threat because it can decrease a person’s quality of life and contribute to an array of physical and mental health conditions such as depression and balance disorders. These new data shed light on the impact of two extremely common and non-essential risk factors for NIHL that currently pose a risk to billions worldwide, highlighting the need for policymakers and individuals to take proactive steps to invest in their hearing health. Luckily, individuals have the power to change their behaviors to protect their hearing, like wearing these earplugs while attending loud events and relaxing with post-trauma cooling after noise exposure.