More than a billion adolescents and young people are at potential risk of hearing loss due to the use of headphones and earphones and attending venues with loud music, concludes an analysis published in the open access journal BMJ Global. Health».
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more 430 million people worldwide currently suffer from hearing loss disabling. Young people are especially vulnerable due to the use of personal listening devices (PLD), such as smartphones, headphones and headphones, and the attendance at venues with loud music, in the midst of little application of the regulations.
Previously published research suggests that PLD users typically choose volumes up to 105 dB, while average sound levels in entertainment venues range from 104 to 112 dB, which exceeds permitted levels (80 dB for adults and 75 dB for children) even for very short periods.
The researchers wanted to measure the prevalence of unsafe listening practices among adolescents and young adults to create a global estimate of the number of people who might be at risk of hearing loss, with the aim of informing policies based on the evidence to safeguard hearing health.
They searched databases for relevant studies published in English, French, Spanish, and Russian, involving people aged 12 to 34, and reporting objectively measured output levels from devices and duration of exposure.
Thirty-three studies were included, corresponding to data from 35 registries and 19,046 participants; 17 records focused on the use of PLD and 18 on noisy entertainment venues.
Y calculated the global number of people who might be at risk of hearing loss taking into account the estimated global population aged 12-34 in 2022 (2.8 billion) and best estimates of exposure to unsafe listening practices from PLDs or noisy entertainment venues derived from the systematic review.
Analysis of the data indicates that the prevalence of unsafe listening practices due to the use of PLD and attendance at noisy entertainment venues is common worldwide: 24% and 48%, respectively, among adolescents and young people. .
Young people are especially vulnerable due to the use of personal listening devices, such as smartphones, earphones and headphones, and the attendance at venues with loud music
Based on these figures, the researchers estimate that the global number of adolescents and young adults who may be at risk of hearing loss as a result ranges from 0.67 to 1.35 billion.
The researchers acknowledge some limitations in their findings, such as the varied design of the studies – a particular feature of studies of entertainment venues – and the lack of a standardized methodology.
Their estimates also do not take into account some potentially influential factors, such as demographics and recent changes in safe listening policy in some countries or regions.
However, their results lead them to conclude: «It is urgent that governments, industry and civil society give priority to hearing loss prevention in the world promoting safe listening practices.
Governments around the world urgently need to prioritize “safe listening” policies, the researchers conclude.