Young People Probs Need To Turn The Music Down Or Risk Hearing Loss
You do it at home, on your commute, at work, out with friends or even when you sleep. Listening to music is an intrinsic part of human life.
A recent global study predicts that pumping music too loud and too often is putting more than 1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide at risk of hearing loss.
When you consider just how many people that is, you realise this is a public health concern we should be listening to.
How Big The Hearing Loss Problem Is
The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 430 million people of all ages worldwide currently have disabling hearing loss.
The recent BMJ Global Health study focuses more closely on young people aged 12 to 34 years olds.
Researchers sifted through previous studies from the early 2000s to 2021, on the effects of personal listening devices and loud music venues. Just over 19,000 people were involved in the study.
By the end it was found roughly 24% of those young people were listening to music on their personal devices at unsafe levels.
Once you zoom out and think globally, that number translates to up to 1.35 billion young people at risk of hearing loss, per the study. This number is colossal.
Researchers are calling for urgent policy changes backed by the WHO for safer listening — like national education and public health campaigns and specific legislation aimed at reducing recreational noise exposure.
What’s Causing Hearing Loss?
As young people we have a role to play in educating ourselves on what safe listening actually sounds like.
In the study, unsafe listening was identified as listening to music or podcasts at levels above 80 decibels for over 40 hours a week.
For context, 85 decibels is on par with the noise a gas-powered lawn mower makes.
Imagine that sound playing in your ears for over 40 hours a week, but with other competing sounds, like buses passing you by or construction noises.
Recurrent or even single instances of unsafe listening can cause physiological damage to the auditory system.
This means hair cells and membranes in the inner ear are killed off, and once those cells die, they don’t grow back.
What’s scary is that noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible and compounds overtime.
So What Are Safe Levels To Listen To?
Just like we take care of our other senses, by brushing our teeth and getting our eyes checked, we can also take care of our precious ears.
Introducing the “80 for 90” rule of thumb as per some audiologists: listening at 80 percent of the max volume, which is about 85 decibels for a total of 90 minutes a day.
That sits around here.
But if you’re like me and like to listen a tad longer, the quieter the volume the more time we can buy ourselves.
Listening at 60 percent of the maximum volume or lower typically can generally last you the day safely.
Most phones now have settings where you can limit your volume.
Switching to noise cancelling headphones is also great for combating background noise so you feel less eager to turn it up.
Experts even recommend wearing earplugs if you’re a frequent nightclub goer, as unfashionable that might sound.
Finally, actively taking breaks without headphones will help to reset your sensitivity to volume and give your ears a chance to flush out some of that waste product.
Try a commute without music every now and then — imagine the conversations you might be privy to.