Hearing loss induced by loud music is a real issue as over 1 billion young people are at risk, according to a new study. If you’re like most people who enjoy sounds at incredibly loud volumes for prolonged periods, you’re at an increased risk of losing your hearing.

The new study published in the journal BMJ Global Health shows that the use of headphones, earbuds, or going to loud music venues like concerts, clubs, etc—termed unsafe listening practices—could cause hearing loss. The findings also reveal that teens and young adults are more prone to hearing loss following deliberately exposing their ears to loud sounds.

Researchers suggest their findings call for the urgent need for policies governing safe listening habits worldwide to be put in place to prevent hearing loss.

It is worth noting that over 430 million people around the world suffer disabling hearing loss according to the World Health Organization.

Maximum volumes acceptable are 80 to 85 decibels (dB)  over 40 hours a week. Yet, personal listening devices (PLDs) users often opt for higher volumes up to 105dB. Meanwhile, average sound levels common in entertainment venues range from 104dB to 112dB, therefore surpassing acceptable levels even for relatively shorter periods. 

For this study, the research team set out to gauge how frequently teenagers and young adults listen to loud music and how many of them globally are at risk of hearing loss.

Methodology

The researchers looked at papers published in French, Russian, Spanish, and English languages with participants between the age of 12 to 34 years. For the global estimate of people at risk of hearing loss, the study authors considered the estimated global population between ages 12 and 34 years in 2022 and the best measure of exposure to PLDs or loud entertainment venues. The papers involved a total of 19,046 participants from over 35 records from 33 studies.

About 17 records involving 8,987 participants were based on personal listening device use while 18 records with 10,059 participants were based on loud entertainment venues.

Altogether, the study comprised 49 percent females and 51 percent males.

Results

The researchers gathered exposure data for excessive noise from personal listening devices to be at 24 percent and 48 percent for loud entertainment venues. In addition, they found the number of teens and young adults likely at risk of hearing loss due to deliberate exposure to unsafe listening practices ranges from 0.67 to 1.35 billion.

Importantly, this is the first study of its kind to gauge the prevalence of exposure to harmful listening practices in teenagers and young adults as well as its global burden.

Above all, adopting safe listening practices is key to preventing noise-induced hearing loss. The study authors recommend always turning down the volume and length of exposure, monitoring levels from device settings, using hearing protection, and paying attention to early signs of impaired hearing including persistent ringing in your ears (tinnitus) and trouble comprehending under background noise.

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