Music is an important part of human life. It is everywhere, like sunlight, to lift our spirits. We have so much fun that many of us take our phones with us everywhere or spend the weekend hitting the club, music venue or concert.
At this point, most of us have probably been annoyed by the loud noises coming from a music venue or the words coming out of someone’s headphones. We probably know that we should avoid hearing loud industrial noise at work or using electronic devices at home.
A systematic review released today in the BMJ Global Health reports of unsafe listening by teenagers and young adults using listening devices (such as phones or digital music) and going to loud clubs and gigs are common, and can be a major factor that causes hearing loss.
In fact, the authors estimate that pop music may put 1.35 billion young people at risk of hearing loss worldwide.
What the study looked at
A systematic review involves looking at multiple studies to identify findings. In this study, the authors included 33 peer-reviewed studies published between 2000 and 2021, involving more than 19,000 people, aged 12-34.
In this study, unsafe listening was defined as listening at a level above 80 decibels for more than 40 hours per week. In his words, this is the level at which many Australian states require companies to adopt noise protection measures such as the use of hearing protection.
The study confirms that the number of unsafe listening practices is very high for young people and adults: 23.81 percent of them were listening to music on their devices at unsafe levels and 48.2 percent in loud entertainment environments (although this is not guaranteed).
Based on the global population, this means more than 1.35 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 430 million people worldwide already have hearing loss and the prevalence could double if preventive measures to prevent hearing loss are not made necessary.
The results are consistent with our previous research conducted by the National Acoustic Laboratories in Australia and the HEARing Cooperative Research Center.
More than ten years ago we reported a high risk of hearing loss from exposure to nightclubs, pubs, and live concerts among young Australians between the ages of 18 and 35.
Back then, we found 13 percent of young Australians (aged 18-35) receive annual noise exposure from nightclubs, concerts, and sports that exceeds industry standards.
In 2015, the WHO launched the Make listening Safe initiative to encourage young people to protect their hearing.
Why is your hearing bad?
So what’s the problem with loud music? Like sunlight, exposure can cause problems.
Loud noise, including music, can kill the hair cells and membranes in the inner ear (cochlea). With hearing loss, a person cannot hear or understand words or sounds around them.
Research shows hearing loss is caused by a combination of loud sounds (and they don’t have to be painful to damage the ears), listening to loud sounds for too long (and the louder, the less time you can listen to before you start listening). hearing is at risk) and how exposed you are (and hearing loss increases over time).
A good rule of thumb for “ears” is that if you experience ringing in your ears during or after listening, you are at risk of damaging your ears. This type of hearing loss is permanent and may require the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Wait, so no loud music at all?
So what can we do, stop throwing away our headphones and avoid playing sports music?
First of all, like the sun and the skin, we must know the dangers of our ears and take steps to protect ourselves. We need to know how much noise is around us and how to keep our looks safe.
We can do this by using protective measures to block hearing in clubs (such as earplugs or earplugs that fit the purpose), or by limiting how often we visit loud music venues or how long we are exposed to noise.
In Australia, people can use a free noise level calculator to calculate their risk of harm using an online noise meter, and assess how lifestyle changes can protect their hearing and allow them to enjoy music.
Most phones now come with software that can control audio levels and reduce exposure.
Hearing protection at the local level is more complex and may require regulatory and industry-based measures. Our 2020 survey identified risk controls for entertainment venues, such as alternating loud and soft sounds, rotating staff, providing quiet rooms, and raising overhead speakers. We also featured DJs and venues that were open to activities aimed at reducing the risk of hearing loss for listeners and staff.
Humming is possible and can improve the enjoyment of music in a concert hall, while still protecting hearing. In this way, everyone will be able to continue enjoying music for a long time.
Robert Cowan, Professorial Research Fellow, Audiology and Speech Pathology, University of Melbourne
This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the first article.