New Standards to Protect Young Peoples’ Hearing

In hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.

More than ever before, young people are at risk of acquiring hearing loss. Our city streets are getting louder every day, with squealing bus brakes and the construction site around the corner. School hallways are notoriously loud, and exercise classes often far exceed safe listening volumes. However, one of the biggest risks to young peoples’ hearing is unsafe listening practices when listening to music, playing games, or watching movies on personal listening devices.

Hearing Loss Among Young People

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that half of all young people aged 12 to 35, around 1.1 billion young people, are jeopardizing their hearing health and may be at risk for developing noise induced hearing loss. Over exposure to dangerously loud sounds is leading to higher rates of hearing loss among teens and young adults than ever before, and the WHO wants to change that. Many young people risk hearing loss through unsafe listening practices. Think about the young adults in your life. How many of them spend hours every day with headphones in their ears? Can you hear their music when you stand next to them? Young adults often don’t realize that listening to music for so many hours at such high volumes will impact their hearing health for the rest of their lives. 

New Standards to Protect Young Peoples’ Hearing

The WHO has recently released new standards to help protect young peoples’ hearing. They want to regulate the manufacture and use of devices such as smartphones and audio players, making them safer for young people, and protecting everyone’s hearing. On February 12, they announced the new international standard, made in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). You can find the guidelines online, and this toolkit for safe listening devices and systems can help you keep your family’s hearing safe. The guidelines will make it easier to adopt and monitor safe listening habits, and protect young peoples’ hearing. 

Educating Young People

If there are young people in your family, you know that they spend many hours of the day with earbuds in their ears. They might not realize it’s affecting their hearing, so the first step is teaching them about hearing health, and the dangers of exposure to loud noises. “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.”

Safe Listening Practices

The new WHO-ITU standards for safe listening practices target the use of personal listening devices. They are urging manufactures to include new features in smartphones and audio devices to make it easier to monitor sound volumes and protect hearing health. They recommend a “sound allowance” function, or a program that can track the volume as well as duration of the user’s exposure to sound, and notify users when they’ve reached their limit. Another recommendation is a personalized listening profile, showing the user their listening practices, and if they’ve been listening safely. This feature would also give suggestions for action to make listening safer, such as reminding the user to turn down the volume or take a break.

One of the biggest factors that lead to hearing loss when using personal listening devices is the volume young people are listening at. The WHO suggests adding automatic volume reduction features, as well as an easy to use parental volume control to help parents limit the volume and protect their child’s hearing.

Make Listening Safe

The WHO is dedicated to making this initiative effective. The “Make Listening Safe” initiative will improve listening practices around the world, protecting hearing among young people, raising awareness around hearing loss, and helping everyone think about their hearing both when using their personal devices and when at other noisy events like concerts or sports events.

HearCare Rhode Island

Hearing health is an important consideration regardless of age. An annual hearing test should be included in your medical care regimen in order to ensure your optimal hearing health. At HearCare Rhode Island, we are committed to hearing health and provide comprehensive hearing health services, from hearing tests to hearing aid fittings. Contact us today to learn more.