We’re all guilty of it. Whether it’s putting in earbuds to go work out at the gym or cranking up the headphones to pass the time during our morning commute, it seems like we’re all too often using personal listening devices to get through the day. And this practice, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization, could lead to an increase in hearing loss.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization – the United Nations public health agency – released a report entitled Making Listening Safe. In the report, the WHO estimates that roughly one billion teenagers and young adults around the world are at risk for hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices.
That’s an alarming statistic. But what exactly constitutes unsafe listening practices?
What The Research Says
Doctors assess whether sounds are safe based on their decibel levels. Put simply, a decibel is a way to measure the intensity of a sound. Generally speaking, the greater the decibel level, the more damage the sound can do to your hearing.
According to the WHO, 85 decibels is the highest level of sound that we can safely tolerate, and even then we should only expose ourselves to this sound level for eight hours a day. As a frame of reference, 85 decibels is about what an average telephone dial tone sounds like.
The problem is that personal audio devices far exceed this level. In fact, some devices can produce a sound level in excess of 135 decibels and, according to the WHO report, individuals will often set the volume on their devices between 75 and 105 decibels.
At the upper edge of that range, you could safely listen to your personal audio device for only about 15 minutes a day.
What You Can Do
In their report, the WHO found that nearly 50 percent of teens and young adults had exposed themselves to unsafe sound levels from personal audio devices. So what are the keys to reducing that number?
The solutions are surprisingly simple. The WHO recommends listening to music at lower volumes and taking regular listening breaks in order to give your ears a rest. Moreover, the report suggested that people buy noise-canceling headphones, as they eliminate the need to crack up the volume to drown out the ambient noise.
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is largely preventable.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!