1.1 billion people at the risk of hearing loss from exposure to loud sounds – WHO

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Being able to perform optimally in today’s fast paced world is certainly a function of many things and hearing is an important part of it because of its vital role in communication and human relationship.

The World Health Organization has revealed that consistent exposure to loud and unsafe levels of sound can cause an estimated 1.1 billion people to lose their hearing ability.

According to the report published on Medical News Today, exposure to high levels of recreational noise from personal audio devices and loud entertainment venues are to blame for this risk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially stated this in a report released in the run up to International Ear Care Day today.

“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 for the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.

The director added that “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.”

Statistics reveal that globally, close to 360 million people (this is over 5% of the world’s population) have moderate to profound hearing loss. Various factors have been identified as possible causes of hearing loss, including genetic conditions, specific infectious diseases, drug use, aging and environmental noise. The World Health Organization estimate that around half of all instances of hearing can be avoided.

A person is said to have hearing loss if he/she is unable to hear. This definition is also applicable to someone who has normal hearing functions – hearing thresholds of 25 dB or better in both ears. Disabling hearing loss is defined as having hearing loss greater than 40 dB in the better hearing ear for adults and 30 dB for children.

WHO analyzed a number of studies from middle- and high-income countries that indicated around half of people aged 12-35 years are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from personal audio devices, including smartphones. Around 40% of this age group are also exposed to potentially damaging levels of sound in venues such as night clubs, bars and at sporting events.

Unsafe levels of sound are described as exposure to sound that is 85 dB or over for 8 hours, or 100 dB or over for just 15 minutes.

WHO recommend ‘simple preventive actions’

The amount of damage that is done can be affected by various factors including the duration of exposure to the sound, how intense or loud the sound is and how frequently exposure to unsafe levels of sound occurs. Temporary hearing loss or tinnitus can occur due to loud sounds, but too much exposure can result in more serious and permanent damage.

The WHO also recommended a couple of ways to protect people from avoidable hearing damage. Employers and governments have a role to play in protecting teenagers and young adults from hearing loss.

From the Nigerian perspective, this seems almost impossible especially considering the upcoming elections and its attendant loud campaign sounds. It is only left to be imagined how many will develop minor hearing loss.

Venues where noise levels can typically reach levels of 100 dB such as concert venues should reduce the duration of time these levels occur for or reduce the volume altogether. WHO state that the highest permissible level of noise exposure in the workplace is 85 dB for up to a maximum of 8 hours per day.

WHO also recommend the use the provision and use of protective ear plugs and “chill out” rooms can also make a difference to patrons of these venues. They also call for governments to develop and enforce legislation concerning recreational noise levels, as well as raising awareness of the risks surrounding hearing loss through public information campaigns.

Young adults can take simple steps to help themselves from the noisy environment they always find themselves in most times; Some of these steps are as simple as keeping the volume of personal audio devices down to safe levels. Wearing ear plugs when visiting an environment with loud sound levels is important, as is limiting the amount of time spent engaging in activities with potentially unsafe sound levels.

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on everyday life, with WHO reporting that it can lead to loneliness, isolation and frustration. By taking a few simple precautions, thousands of teenagers and young adults can protect themselves and avoid the risk of it ever affecting their lives. The MNT report says.

As mobile technology have continued evolve while providing solutions to some of the simple day to day challenges we face, there smart phone apps that can help you monitor sound levels in your environment. This information can help you decide the level is unsafe for you.

The first two are iPhone apps dB Volume Meter and TooLoud? The other is an android app called decibel. Get more details about this apps and link to download them here.

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