Hearing loss: Researchers worry about the hearing of a billion people

generation of bad listeners
More than a billion young people are at risk of hearing loss – and it’s their own fault

Was what? Young people in particular do not pay enough attention to their hearing.

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Young people in particular put more strain on their ears than they can handle. As a result, they accept permanent hearing loss. Researchers fear that more than a billion people could become hard of hearing.

Listening to your favorite band for a while, escaping the noise of the outside world. Adolescents and young people in particular like to turn up the volume control all the way up. Until they really don’t need to hear anything else. So loud that at some point your ears give up. As a large global study has now discovered, an entire generation is at risk of permanently damaging their hearing.

As a basis for the meta-analysis, researchers used scientific articles on the listening practices of people between the ages of 12 and 34 that were published between 2000 and 2021. Three databases served as sources. Wearing headphones and activities such as going to clubs, bars and concerts were classified as unsafe listening practices. The results, now published in the journal BMJ Global Health, are alarming. Lauren Dillard, lead author of the study and advisor to the World Health Organization, summarizes it for “CNN”: “We estimate that worldwide 0.67 to 1.35 billion people aged 12 to 34 are likely to engage in unsafe listening practices”. This puts them at risk of hearing loss.

Hearing problems due to loud music through headphones

The study is based on a well-known problem: If the volume is too high, this can lead to ear injuries because the sensory cells are damaged. Depending on the frequency, the threshold that should not be exceeded is 120 to 140 decibels. In extreme cases, a so-called acoustic trauma can occur. This initially manifests itself as a stabbing earache, which can then lead to tinnitus and/or reduced hearing – even permanently.

However, hearing problems can be caused by far less noise pollution. From a volume of around 80 to 85 decibels, the risk of noise-induced hearing loss is considered to be increased. This depends on the one hand on the individual sensitivity to noise and on the other hand on the duration of the noise exposure. Such noise pollution can be loud machines that craftsmen regularly use at work or music that is too loud in a club.

Hearing: “Whatever breaks stays broken”

“Whatever breaks stays broken,” explains doctor Bernhard Junge-Hülsing to the editorial network Germany (RND). Over time, chronic noise-induced hearing loss can develop, which is similar to age-related hearing loss and, in the worst case, can lead to complete hearing loss. For this reason, headphones, for example, should also be used in moderation – this affects the wearing time, but also the volume. So it is not good to use headphones for three hours at a time. He says: “The ears need regular breaks from noise.”

Even simply listening through headphones can damage your hearing. According to the study, listeners often turn up the volume on smartphones, for example, higher than is good for the ear – up to 105 decibels. Dillard therefore recommends using headphones that reduce ambient noise, i.e. work with so-called noise canceling. At concerts or clubs you should keep your distance from the loudspeakers, hearing protection such as earplugs counteract damage to your hearing.

Source: BMJ, cnn, health information, RND

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