By Erica Setnick
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “1.1 billion teenagers and young adults around the world are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events.”
WHO reports more than 43 million people aged 12-35 have hearing loss and the number is increasing.
“It’s a pretty obvious study, but I don’t think a lot of people really care about their hearing until it’s too late,” said Jimmy Guaraldo, a healthcare major, in response to the WHO study. That nonchalant attitude is a problem, experts say. “As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss,” noted Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO director for the Department for Management of Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.
“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.”
Some preventive actions suggested by doctors are turning the volume down to about 60 percent on listening devices, moving away from loud sounds, or wearing noise-cancelling headphones, which can reduce the risk of raising the volume on listening devices.
The Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) lists common causes of hearing loss on their website. One of the causes is Presbycusis, which is slowly losing hearing with age.
Another cause is noise-induced hearing loss and, according to the HHF, many construction workers, farmers, musicians, airport workers, tree cutters, and people in the armed forces have hearing problems because of too much exposure to loud noise.
Sometimes loud noise can cause a ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears, called tinnitus.
Other causes, according to HHF’s website, are viruses or bacteria, heartconditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medicines. Even diabetes and hypertension can cause hearing loss.
WHO warns: “Hearing is a precious faculty. Hearing damage due to excessive noise cannot be reversed. Quality of life can decline among affected people, while health care costs for society can increase. Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable – so look after your hearing.”
According to Carlo Alcaraz, a communications major, there has to be some moderation when listening to music with headphones.
“I know when a song’s too loud and I adjust [the volume] so that I don’t get a headache or anything, but when you see guys walking around and all it sounds like is static coming from their heads, that might be an issue,” says Alcaraz. “I think that there needs to be a balance. If there are people that really need to cut down on the sound, they can still enjoy their music other ways like buying a small radio, playing [music] from your PC speakers, or by setting the volume limit on your MP3. There are a hundred ways you can enjoy [music] without having to give it up and still be kind to your ears.”
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