Hearing loss risk from headphones and venues

Unsafe listening practices are widespread and may be contributing to hearing loss around the world, experts warn today.

Hearing loss is a public health concern that deserves global recognition, say Dr Lauren Dillard Medical University of South Carolina, USA, and colleagues in today’s *BMJ Global Health*.

Currently over 430 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, and this may almost double if hearing loss prevention is not prioritised, according to the World Health Organization.

So, the researchers set out to determine the extent of unsafe listening practices from loud entertainment venues and personal listening devices such as smartphones, headphones and earbuds.

It has previously been found that people often set their devices to volumes up to 105 dB, and entertainment venues can be as loud as 112 dB. The permissible levels are 80 dB for adults and 75 dB for children.

Their analysis of 33 studies, covering 19,046 individuals aged 12 to 34 years, calculated that about 24% were using personal listening devices at unsafe levels.

For loud entertainment venues they calculated the risky exposure rate to be 48% of participants.

“The global estimated number of young people who could be at risk of hearing loss from exposure to unsafe listening practices ranged from 0.67 to 1.35 billion,” they report.

“There is an urgent need to prioritise policy focused on safe listening,” they add, encouraging governments and regulators to refer to the comprehensive materials provided by the World Health Organization to aid policymaking.

Dillard, L. K. et al. Prevalence and global estimates of unsafe listening practices in adolescents and young adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. *BMJ Global Health* 16 November 2022; doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2022-010501


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