They say youth is the best time of your life and should be lived to the fullest. These days, teenagers and young adults love to party, but little do they know that they might be signing up for something far more dangerous than they would have ever thought. A recent research study by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that over a billion teenagers are at the extreme risk of hearing loss.
The study shows that most of this risk of hearing loss stems from recreational noise, something every teenager is exposed to in today’s world. In line with the recent youth motto “YOLO,” which stands for “You Only Live Once,” medical experts have come up with their own little slogan - “YOHO – You Only Hear Once” - because hearing loss is permanent and irreversible.
What is Causing Hearing Loss in Young People?
The press release by WHO in February 2015 indicated that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults aged 12 to 35 years are at the risk of hearing loss due to their lifestyle choices. Fifty percent of young people are exposed to unsafe levels of sound due to the misuse of personal audio devices, such as music players and smartphones. While this happens for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis, around 40% of teenagers are at a further risk due to noisy entertainment venues, such as nightclubs and bars with loud music, talking, and sporting events occupied by hundreds of thousands of screaming fans.
Medical science has found that exposure in excess of 85 decibels for more than eight hours can be hazardous for hearing. The sound produced by heavy city traffic, a motorcycle or a power mower is more or less equal to 85 decibels. Similarly, a 15-minute exposure to sounds of 100 decibels can also prove to be very dangerous. Such sounds can be that of live rock music or a riveting machine.
What Does the WHO Recommend?
The recommendations by WHO are two-fold. For teenagers and young adults, the organization recommends awareness and personal care. They can shield their hearing by maintaining a reasonable volume on personal audio devices and restricting their use to less than an hour each day. They can also wear earplugs when visiting noisy venues and also limit the time engaged in noisy activities by taking short listening breaks. Nowadays, smartphone apps allow people to monitor safe listening levels. Teenagers can download such apps and keep tabs on their hearing habits. Finally, regular check-ups can prove to be highly beneficial.
For governments, the WHO recommends creating stricter policies on recreational noise and developing legislation that enforces these. Governments can also run awareness campaigns that tell people about the risk of hearing loss. Parents, teachers and physicians can educate young people about safe listening, while manufacturers can design personal audio devices with safety features and display information about safe listening on products and packaging. With collective effort, we can combat and solve this health issue.