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One Billion Young People at Risk of Hearing Loss

Last updated March 14, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Research shows that pop songs have become intrinsically louder and simpler in terms of the chords, melodies, and types of sound used.

Have your parents ever complained about the volume of the music you are listening to? It turns out that your parents are right when judging how loud your music is. Over the past 50 years, pop music has gotten louder and more repetitive. Now, more than one billion young people are at risk for hearing loss.

In 2012, a team of researchers at the Spanish National Research Council analyzed pop songs from 1955 to 2010 using sophisticated algorithms. They found that pop songs have become intrinsically louder and simpler in terms of the chords, melodies, and types of sound used.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on International Care Day that approximately 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults could face hearing loss due to constant exposure to loud noise from personal audio devices and environment venues.

"As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss," states Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO director of the Department of Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.

Our years have limits as to how loud we can listen to a sound. On the low end, the average person can hear sounds down to about 0 decibels (dB), the level of rustling leaves. However, if sound reaches 85 dB or stronger, it can cause permanent damage to your hearing. The length of sound exposure affects how much damage your ears will face. Here are a few examples of the noise levels that your ears are exposed to:

  • A typical conversation occurs at 60 dB – not loud enough to cause damage.
  • A bulldozer that is idling, but not actively bulldozing, can reach 85 dB, which can hurt the ears after eight hours of exposure.
  • A personal music system with earphones at a maximum volume can reach a level of over 100 dB, causing permanent damage after just 15 minutes per day.

The World Health Organization analyzed a number of studies from middle- and high-income countries that showed around half of people aged 12-35 years expose themselves to unsafe levels of sound from personal audio devices. Around 40 percent of the same age group expose themselves to hazardous levels of sound by attending loud venues, such as nightclubs, bars, and sporting events.

DoveMed reported an earlier study showing the link between loud sounds and hearing loss. The researchers found that targeting the myelin and promoting its repair after exposure to loud sounds can be effective in treating hearing loss.

There are many practices teenagers and young adults can learn to keep the volume of their personal audio devices down to safe levels. They should wear earplugs when visiting an environment with loud sound levels. If they attend loud venues frequently, buying earplugs that do not muffle the sound but decrease the intensity is a great long-term investment.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 14, 2015
Last updated: March 14, 2015