Nowadays, teenagers can be seen ubiquitously enjoying their favorite music on mobile phones unaware of its health hazards. Researchers have dug deep and found that loud music from smartphones and personal audio devices (headphones) can cause permanent hearing loss. Hence, this apparently safe pastime is not without some health complications.
In the last decade, hearing loss has increased three fold in teenagers. Adding weight to the statement, the World Health Organization (WHO), in their latest data has put more than 1 billion teenagers and young adults at the risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of musical devices. Portable music players have been there for a while, but MP3 players and smartphones allow users to store music on their device. Teenagers enjoy music with the help of ear buds that deliver sound directly into the ear canal, eliminating other sounds.
Hearing loss can occur due to damage to structures or nerve fibers in the inner ear that respond to sound. This is known as “noise-induced hearing loss,” which is caused by repeated exposure to loud sounds. It cannot be medically or surgically corrected.
The revelation made by WHO can jolt the Indians because they are habitual of listening music through smartphones or headphones at public places or at home. Furthermore, damaging levels of sound at bars, nightclubs or pubs may lead to disturbing consequences for physical and mental health. According to WHO, unsafe levels of sounds can be eight hours exposure to 85 decibels (db) or 15 minutes exposure to 100 decibels.
What can be done?
Firstly, teenagers and young adults can protect their ears by downing the volume on personal audio devices, wearing earplugs at noisy venues and if possible, using noise-reducing headphones. They can also restrict their time spent on noisy activities by taking breaks and limiting the use of personal audio devices. They can retort to safe listening levels by using smartphone apps. Moreover, they must get regular hearing check-ups
Secondly, government can help by enforcing strict rules on loud noise and by organizing campaigns that educate people about the risks of hearing loss
. Parents, teachers and doctors can provide critical knowledge to young people about safe listening.
Owners of the entertainment venues can honor the safe noise levels, use sound limiters, and offer earplugs to guests. Manufacturers of personal audio devices can come up with new products with safety features and showcase information regarding safe listening on products and packaging.
Across the globe, around 360 million people suffer from moderate to acute hearing loss due to multiple factors like nose, genetic conditions, birth complications
, ear infections
and more. WHO estimates that most of these cases are avoidable. The only thing needed at this stage is integration of educational programs.