Too loud! Music lovers risk hearing loss: WHO

GENEVA • A generation of music lovers are damaging their hearing with audio players that do not limit dangerously high noise levels, the UN health agency has said.

Already 466 million people worldwide have debilitating hearing loss, up from 360 million in 2010. The figure is expected to nearly double to 900 million, or one in every 10 people, by 2050, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

"Over one billion young people are at risk of hearing loss simply by doing what they really enjoy doing a lot - which is listening regularly to music through their headphones over their devices," Dr Shelly Chadha of WHO's prevention of deafness and hearing loss programme told a news briefing.

WHO is urging manufacturers and regulators to ensure smartphones and audio players have software that can help limit people from listening to music too loud for too long.

"What we propose are certain features like automatic volume reduction and parental control of the volume so that when somebody goes over his sound limit, he has the option that the device will automatically reduce the volume to a level which is not going to harm his ears," Dr Chadha said.

"Our effort through this standard is really to empower the user to make the right listening choice or take the risk of developing hearing loss and tinnitus a few years down the line," he added.

The European Union is the only part of the world to mandate that output levels on personal audio devices be set to a standard of 85 decibels, with a maximum of 100.

WHO is also looking at volume levels in places such as nightclubs and sports arenas. "What we working on... is to develop that kind of regulatory framework about the different venues... which often have very high levels of sound being played and exposure for a long time."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'Too loud! Music lovers risk hearing loss: WHO'. Print Edition | Subscribe