Loud music may up hearing loss risk in over 1 bn young adults: WHO

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More than 1 billion people aged 12 to 35 years risk losing their hearing due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud music and other recreational sounds, the World Health Organisation warned ahead of the World Hearing Day 2022 on Thursday.

World Hearing Day 2022 is observed globally every year on March 3 to raise awareness on hearing loss that can have devastating consequences for their physical and mental health, education, and employment prospects.

The theme this year is “to hear for life, listen with care”.

“Millions of teenagers and young people are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging sound levels at venues such as nightclubs, bars, concerts and sporting events,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for the Department for Noncommunicable Diseases, in a statement.

“The risk is intensified as most audio devices, venues and events do not provide safe listening options and contribute to the risk of hearing loss,” she added.

The WHO stated that hearing loss due to loud sounds is permanent but preventable.

Exposure to loud sounds causes temporary hearing loss or tinnitus. But prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to permanent hearing damage, resulting in irreversible hearing loss.

Young people can better protect their hearing by: keeping the volume down on personal audio devices, using well-fitted, and if possible, noise-cancelling earphones/headphones, wearing earplugs at noisy venues, and getting regular hearing check-ups.

The WHO has also issued a new international standard for safe listening at venues and events, which includes: a maximum average sound level of 100 decibels; live monitoring and recording of sound levels; optimising venue acoustics and sound systems, among others.

“Governments, civil society and private sector entities such as manufacturers of personal audio devices, sound systems, and video gaming equipment as well as owners and managers of entertainment venues and events have an important role to play in advocating for the new global standard,” said Dr Ren Minghui, WHO Assistant Director-General, in the statement.

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