Over a billion young adults suffer hearing loss risk

A new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as part of International Ear Care Day on March 3rd has claimed that around 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are currently at risk of sustaining hearing damage.

Constant exposure to high levels of recreational noise from both personal devices and loud entertainment venues are being blamed for the risk, according to the report.

Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO director for the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention said:

"As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss."

"They should be aware that once you lose your hearing, it won't come back. Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk."

Around 360 million people – over five per cent of the world’s population – currently have hearing loss classed as between moderate and profound.  WHO estimates that around half of all instances of hearing loss were preventable.

Anyone who is unable to hear as well as someone with normal hearing  (a hearing thresholds of 25 dB or more in both ears) is classed as having hearing loss, with loss greater than 40dB in the better hearing ear considered ‘disabling’. (It is 30dB for children).

WHO looked at a number of studies from middle and high-income countries and found that around half of people aged between 12 and 35 years are constantly being exposed to damaging sound levels, with about 40 per cent receiving exposure at nightclubs, bars, sporting and other events. 

Recommended action

Damage done to hearing depends on a number of different factors such as the duration of exposure to the sound, the intensity of the sound as well as how frequently the ears are exposed to it.  Temporary hearing loss and tinnitus can occur as a result of sudden exposure to loud sounds, but constant exposure is far more likely to cause permanent damage.

WHO have made a number of different recommendations in order to try and help protect younger people, and have also highlighted the part to play that employers and governments have in helping reduce the risk of hearing damage.

The provision of ‘chill out’ rooms in noisy venues has been highlighted, as has the value of distributing earplugs on-site. 

WHO highlighted the debilitating effect that hearing loss can have on everyday life, with loneliness, isolation and frustration all common consequences. 

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