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Over one billion at risk of hearing loss, WHO reports

Over one billion at risk of hearing loss, WHO reports

Huge proportion of world's population regularly exposed to unsafe sound levels, according to World Health Organisation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has claimed that some 1.1 billion young adults and teenagers worldwide are currently running the risk of hearing loss.

According to a new WHO report, nearly 50% of people aged 12-35 years in middle-to-high-income countries are being exposed to potentially damaging sound levels from the use of personal audio devices, and around 40% are unknowingly harming their hearing thanks to unsafe levels at entertainment venues.

“As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss,” noted Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO director for the department for management of noncommunicable diseases, disability, violence and injury prevention. “They should be aware that once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back. Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk.”

WHO states that 100dB, a normal volume in many entertainment venues, is only safe for 15 minutes, and recommends that the highest level of safe noise exposure in the workplace is 85 dB up to a maximum of eight hours per day. Keeping the volume down on personal audio devices, wearing earplugs in noisy venues, using carefully fitted, noise-cancelling earphones/headphones or simply limiting the time spent engaged in noisy activities are all ways to reduce risk, the Organisation says.

Governments also have a role to play, WHO asserts, by developing and enforcing strict legislation on recreational noise, and by raising awareness of the risks of hearing loss through public information campaigns. while managers of entertainment venues can respect the safe noise levels set by their respective venues, use sound limiters, and offer earplugs to patrons.

Every year, 3 March is International Ear Care Day, and this year WHO is launching the “Make Listening Safe” initiative to draw attention to the dangers of unsafe listening and promote safer practices. 

For more advice on hearing health, check out Sensaphonics founder and president Michael Santucci's opinion piece from the January issue of Audio Media International.

www.who.int