The World Health Organization (WHO) runs a campaign to make listening safe for all, regardless of age or profession. They’re bringing together research on who’s the most at risk of hearing loss, and how to prevent hearing loss. The WHO hopes to see a world where no one needs to face hearing loss from unsafe listening, and we’re happy to help them spread their message.
Who’s Risking Their Hearing?
People of all ages are at risk of hearing loss from unsafe listening practices. However, one of the most at risk groups for hearing loss are teenagers and young adults. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are risking their hearing health every day. Risks include personal listening devices with the volume on high, as well as loud concerts, and crowded venues and bars.
Adults who work in noisy professions also risk their hearing health every day on the job. Construction workers, farmers, emergency responders, and musicians are among the most at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
One of the most common kinds of hearing loss is noise induced hearing loss. This hearing loss is caused by exposure to very loud noises either at work or during noisy leisure activities. Dangerously loud noises include busy construction sites, emergency sirens, crowded school halls, and even daily rush hour traffic.
Another common cause of noise induced hearing loss is unsafe listening to music or audio using headphones. Teens and young adults often use music on their earbuds to drown out distracting background noise, turning up the volume to unsafe levels that can damage hearing and lead to hearing loss and tinnitus.
Noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable! That’s why the WHO is campaigning to make listening safe for all and prevent hearing loss in people of all ages.
Guidelines for Safe Listening
The WHO has guidelines for safe listening that can make listening safe for all. The guidelines state that any noise over 85 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss. When sounds are 85 decibels, roughly the sound of a lawnmower, these sounds can damage your hearing health. At these volumes, you may be ok to listen for several hours without hearing loss, but the WHO advocates for wearing hearing protection when sounds are louder than 85 dB.
When sounds are louder than 85 dB, hearing loss can occur much faster. For example, sounds of 100 dB can damage hearing within an hour, and sounds at 120 dB can permanently damage hearing in a matter of minutes. Personal listening devices have volumes that often exceed 100 dB! At this volume, you can damage your hearing in just one listening session.
Protecting Your Hearing
The WHO recommends wearing hearing protection whenever you’re listening to loud noises, whether at work or during leisure activities. A good rule of thumb is that if you need to yell to hear the person next to you, you should be wearing hearing protection. For moderately loud sound, foam or wax earplugs can reduce the volume to safe levels. For extremely loud sounds, earmuffs or digital hearing protection are more appropriate. These will reduce very loud sounds to safe levels to make listening safe for all.
Young people who are at risk of hearing loss can protect their hearing by monitoring the volume of their music. You can set a maximum volume on your device that prevents you from turning up the volume too high. The WHO recommends that you never turn up the volume higher than 60% to protect your hearing. If you use your music to cover background noise, invest in noise cancelling headphones so you can listen at safe volumes without cranking up the volume. It’s also a good idea to take breaks from listening, and give your ears a rest every hour.
My Hearing Centers
Whether you’re 16 or 60, you could be risking your hearing with unsafe listening practices. Visit us at My Hearing Centers to find out more about noise induced hearing loss, and discover what activities are putting your ears at risk. We’ll also help you find the right hearing protection to keep you safe when you’re in noisy situations.