More than one billion young people worldwide may be at risk for hearing loss due to using headphones or going to loud music venues., a large review of the available research estimated.
The study, which was conducted under the direction of the World Health Organization, urged manufacturers to take additional steps to safeguard future hearing and urged young people to be more cautious about their listening habits.
More than 19,000 participants aged between 12-34 were included in 33 studies that were published in English, Spanish, French, and Russian over the past 20 years. The analysis, which was published in the journal BMJ Global Health, examined data from these studies.
It was discovered that 24% of young people engaged in risky listening habits when using headphones with gadgets like smartphones.
It also found 48% were exposed to unsafe noise levels at entertainment venues such as concerts or nightclubs.
Combining these findings, the study estimated that between 670,000 to 1.35 billion young people could be at risk of hearing loss.
The wide range is partly because some young people are probably at risk from both factors, said Lauren Dillard, an audiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina and the study’s first author.
Turning down the volume and listening for shorter durations, according to Ms. Dillard, is the best way for people to reduce their risk of hearing loss from headphones.
“Unfortunately, people do really like very loud music,” she admitted.
In loud environments, noise-canceling headphones can help avoid “cranking up your music to try to drown out all that background noise”, Ms Dillard added.
Earplugs should be worn at loud events like concerts or nightclubs, she said, adding, “Maybe it’s fun to be in the front by the speakers, but it’s not a good idea for your long-term health.
“All of these behaviours, these exposures can compound over the course of your entire life, and then when you’re 67 years old, it can have a pretty big impact.”
Ms. Dillard urged governments to adhere to WHO recommendations for safe listening, including ensuring that venues monitor and set music volume limits.
She also urged companies that make devices like phones to warn listeners when the volume is too loud and to include parental locks to restrict children’s exposure.
The research was limited by the use of different methodologies in each study and the fact that no studies were conducted in low-income nations.
The research demonstrated “the potential for serious population-wide hearing loss is very large,” according to Stephen Stansfeld, a Queen Mary University of London expert on noise and health who was not involved in the study.
The WHO reports that more than 430 million people of all ages worldwide currently have disabling hearing loss and predicts that number will increase to 700 million by the year 2050.