Our world is full of noise, now more than ever before, and it just keeps getting louder. Our city streets are crowded, and traffic and neighborhood noise can invade even our homes and workplaces. Schools and universities are full of chatting students, and hallways are dangerously loud. Technology has also brought noise closer than ever before, and teens and young people are rarely without their phones or personal listening devices, blasting music right into their ears, playing games, or chatting with friends, and are damaging their hearing each and every day.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.1 billion young people between the ages of 12 and 35 are damaging their hearing, and aren’t aware of the risks to their hearing health. Up to half of all young people don’t realize that they have unsafe listening practices, or that blasting their music today could cost them their hearing tomorrow. Young people of today risk noise induced hearing loss, and whether at school, on the commute, at the gym, or at home, they have unsafe listening practices that are harming their ears.
The world is starting to take notice of the dangers to hearing health, especially among young people. The WHO and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have released new standards to protect young peoples’ hearing, and hope that these will be implemented all around the world. Using both education and technology, they hope that young people will start looking after their hearing health, protect their hearing, and develop safe listening habits. The guidelines are available online and the toolkit for safe listening devices and systems provides more information for parents and young people.
The best way to implement change is through education. Many young people simply don’t understand the risks to their hearing health, and don’t know that what they do today will affect their hearing health for the rest of their lives. Have a conversation with the young people in your life, talk about noise induced hearing loss, and make sure they know that hearing loss will affect their future in profound ways. “Given that we have the technological know-how to prevent hearing loss, it should not be the case that so many young people continue to damage their hearing while listening to music,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general. “They must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won’t come back. This new WHO-ITU standard will do much to better safeguard these young consumers as they go about doing something they enjoy.”
The WHO hopes that these new standards to protect young peoples’ hearing will have an impact on the technology we use every day. Many young people risk their hearing health using personal listening devices, so the WHO wants to change the technology that we use every day. They’re encouraging manufacturers to provide more programs and features to monitor hearing health and listening practices. A “sound allowance” feature could track how many hours a day people listen, and at what volumes, and notify the user when they’ve reached the maximum safe limit for the day. This would encourage users to be more mindful of their ears, and change their listening habits. Another suggestion is that manufactures develop personalized listening profiles which would give recommendations for safe listening, notify users when they’re not listening safely, and suggest when it’s time to turn down the volume. Parental volume controls are already available on many devices, and this allows parents to monitor their child’s listening habits, and cap the maximum volume at safe volumes to protect their child’s hearing health.
Do you have teens or young people in your life who may not be listening safely? Take the time to have a conversation with them about safe listening practices, and help them develop habits that will protect their hearing health. Then, call us today the Hearing Consultants, where we can provide a comprehensive hearing test for each member of your family. We’ll help you educate your young people, and protect the hearing of everyone in your family.