Devices, noisy venues could cause hearing loss in 1 billion young people: NPR


Apple AirPods are demonstrated at a new product announcement event on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 in San Francisco.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


Apple AirPods are demonstrated at a new product announcement event on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 in San Francisco.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

More than 1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss, a new study finds.

“It is estimated that 0.67-1.35 billion adolescents and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from exposure to unsafe listening practices,” said the study, published Tuesday in the BMJ Journal.

Recommended noise limits are no more than 85 decibels during a 40-hour work week. Young people aged 12 to 35 using devices such as MP3 players and mobile phones actively listened to content at 105 decibels, while the average noise level in entertainment venues was 104 to 112 decibels.

“Damage from unsafe listening may increase over the life course, and exposure to noise earlier in life may make individuals more vulnerable to age-related hearing loss,” researchers said.

The scientists analyzed 33 studies from 2000 to 2021, but those studies were unable to conclude whether the hearing loss was permanent or temporary.

“Temporary threshold shifts and hidden hearing loss likely serve as predictors for irreversible permanent hearing loss and may lead to hearing impairment in difficult listening environments, such as background noise,” the researchers said.

A person’s risk of hearing loss depends on how loud, how long and how often they are exposed to certain sounds. A sign that you may have been listening unsafely is tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

Consequences of hearing loss

Hearing loss in children may lead to poorer academic performance and decreased motivation and concentration, researchers say.

For adults, hearing loss can be linked to mental health decline, lower income, depression, cognitive impairment and even heart problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to prevent hearing loss

Exposure to noise through electronic devices and locations is “modifiable
risk factor for hearing loss,” researchers say, and there are a few things you can do to protect your ears.

  • If possible, take a break from exposure
  • Use hearing protection, such as foam earplugs, in loud environments
  • Keep distance between yourself and the source of the sound, such as speakers at an event
  • Keep your devices on a safe volume. Some mobile phones have features that warn you when your content is too loud.

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