World Health Organisation’s warning to the world’s young adults – ‘Too much, too loudly’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a warning to the 1.1 billion young adults and teenagers around the world telling them that their hearing is at risk.

The WHO authoritative report concludes that personal audio players, concerts and bars are the biggest culprits, affecting 43 million people between the ages of 12 and 35. Audio players in particular were found to often be used on a setting which can cause damage to a person’s hearing.

The report also highlighted that a further 40% of people were exposed to hearing loss from the damaging noise levels found in bars and nightclubs.

The WHO found that as a result of these trends, the proportion of teenagers suffering from hearing loss from the USA has increased to 5.3% from 3.5%, in little over 10 years.

There is a concern amongst the WHO that the issue of hearing loss is not talked about enough, and therefore many of those exposed to too much noise are unaware of the potential long term damage to their hearing.

In order to rectify this, the WHO advises that some small changes in the way that the music can be experienced could lead to prevention of hearing damage. For instance, buying a pair of noise-cancelling headphones could allow for the volume to be set at a lower level than what is needed to mask background noise. Another method could be to wear ear plugs during a concert, or to take breaks away from the noisy environment, for example, in a quiet room away from the speakers.

Some venues in particular can reach 100dB for the duration of the concert. This contrasts with the legal guidelines for exposure to noise in the workplace which, for an 8 hour shift, is limited to 85dB of noise exposure, before measures such as hearing protection or sound proofing need to take affect.

The WHO seems to appreciate that some of their suggestions may be difficult to follow due to the fact that these are leisure activities for the purposes of enjoying the music.

It will perhaps be more beneficial if action is taken by the government to introduce certain safety measures, for example, headphone manufacturers introducing volume controls and music venues could reduce the volume of their speakers or give out free ear plugs.

The concern that music lovers should have is that in the long term not taking these small measures now could impair their enjoyment of music later on in their life. In addition, there could be a risk of developing tinnitus, a pernicious condition which usually manifests as a buzzing or ringing sensation in the ears.

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