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More than 1 billion young people could be at risk of hearing loss, a new study shows

Apple AirPods are demonstrated during an event to announce new products on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in San Francisco.
Marcio Jose Sanchez
Apple AirPods are demonstrated during an event to announce new products on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in San Francisco.

More than 1 billion young people could be at risk of facing hearing loss, a new study shows.

"It is estimated that 0.67–1.35 billion adolescents and young adults worldwide could be at risk of hearing loss from exposure to unsafe listening practices," according to the study, which was published in BMJ Journal on Tuesday.

Recommended noise limits are no more than 85 decibels throughout a 40-hour week. Young people from ages 12 to 35 using devices such as MP3 players and cellphones, actively listened to content at 105 decibels, while the average noise level at entertainment venues was 104 to 112 decibels.

"Damage from unsafe listening can compound over the life course, and noise exposure earlier in life may make individuals more vulnerable to age-related hearing loss," researchers said.

The scientists analyzed 33 studies from 2000 to 2021, but those studies have not been able to conclude whether the hearing loss was permanent or temporary.

"Temporary threshold shifts and hidden hearing loss likely serve as predictors for irreversible permanent hearing loss and may present as difficulties hearing in challenging listening environments, such as in background noise," the researchers said.

A person's risk of hearing loss depends on how loud, how long and how often they are exposed to certain noises. A sign that you may have engaged in unsafe listening practices is tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

Impacts of hearing loss

Hearing loss in children can lead to poorer academic performance and reduced motivation and concentration, researchers said.

For adults, hearing loss could be linked to a decline in the state of one's mental health, lower income, depression, cognitive impairment and even heart problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to prevent hearing loss

Noise exposure through electronic devices and venues are "a modifiable
risk factor for hearing loss," researchers said, and there are a few things you can do to protect your ears.

  • Take a break from the exposure if possible
  • Use ear protections, such as foam ear plugs, in loud environments
  • Put distance between yourself and the source of the noise, such as loud speakers at an event
  • Keep your devices at a safe volume. Some cellphones have features that will alert you when your content is too loud.
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Ayana Archie

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