Concern over unsafe listening practices is a worldwide issue. More than 11 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of developing hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal listening devices as well as exposure to noise in entertainment venues. If you suspect you have hearing loss, or you want to keep tabs on your hearing with annual exams – call Hearing Health today and schedule an appointment.
Hearing concerns worldwide
Over 43 million people aged 12 to 30 live with disabling hearing loss. The World Health Organization is working on spreading the word about safe listening with its educational campaign, “Make Listening Safe.” Research shows nearly 50% of young people, aged 12 to 35, in middle- and high-income countries listen to unsafe levels of sound when they use their personal audio devices such as iPods, MP3 players and iPhones. Around 40% of young people in middle- and high-income countries are exposed to potentially damaging levels of sound at nightclubs, dance parties, bars and sporting events.
In addition, advances in technology for personal devices means louder volume levels possible for MP3 players, iPods and iPhones. This can lead to unsafe levels of listening for prolonged periods of time.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Exposure to loud sound, at 80 to 85 decibels or higher, for any length of time causes stress on the ear’s sensory cells. This can lead to a temporary loss of hearing or tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. Concertgoers may experience muffled hearing or ringing in the ears after a performance. As the sensory cells recover, the hearing improves. But when the exposure is particularly loud, regular or prolonged, there is a risk for permanent damage. High pitched frequency hearing is affected first, which may not be immediately detected. Speech recognition is another difficulty with untreated hearing loss.
Some are more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss than others. Genetics and chronic conditions such as diabetes as well as exposure to cigarette smoke and alcohol use increase the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Because its difficult to tell if an individual Is pre-disposed to noise-induced hearing loss, the best prevention is to avoid loud and prolonged noise.
Noise-induced hearing loss can have an impact on many aspects of a person’s life including social and educational development. Noise exposure in young people also contributes to age-related hearing loss. Inadequate hearing protection during activities such as shooting firearms, listening to loud music on personal devices and attending loud events at concerts and clubs may lead to significant communication difficulties later in life.
Safe listening levels depend on the intensity or loudness of the sound, duration or length of time listening, and frequency or how often there is exposure. You can listen to lower volumes of sound longer and more frequently than high volumes. For example, a subway train can go as high as a 100 decibel sound level. You can safety listen to a train for only 15 minutes. If the decibel level of the sound is at 85, the maximum exposure could be eight hours. Personal listening devices have decibel ratings starting at about 75 – but going as high as 135! The sound levels at clubs where music is being played or performed can have a decibel level of between 104 and 112. This would set maximum exposure at 15 minutes.
What can you do?
You can keep the volume on your personal devices low. You can wear ear plugs at night clubs or other loud venues. You can limit your exposure to loud music – take a 10 minute break a couple of times if you are at a club. Try not to stand directly in front of the speakers. If you are a parent, talk to your child about keeping the volume on their devices low and if needed, invest in noise cancelling headphones, and look for apps that cap volume levels for listeners. There are apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone that let you check the sound level in an area. Make your loved ones aware that damaging their hearing now will lead to hearing loss later.
Visit Us at Hearing Health in Portland
If you have constant ringing in your ears, conversation seems muffled to you, your ears feel “full” – you may have hearing loss. Get regular hearing tests at Hearing Health to keep abreast of any hearing changes.