Earbuds and Headphones Could Be Damaging Your Hearing

More than a billion young people face possible hearing loss, partly because of the sharp increase in the use of headphones and earbuds, according to an international study conducted through the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery of the Medical University of South Carolina, the World Health Organization, and Lund University, Sweden.

What to Know

  • More than 430 million people have disabling hearing loss. Young people are especially vulnerable to the condition because they use loud personal listening devices and attend loud events.

  • Globally, the number of teens and young adults who could be at risk of hearing loss because of being exposed to excessively loud noise ranges from 0.67 to 1.35 billion.

  • The permissible level for sound is 80 decibels for adults and 75 decibels for children. Headphones are a prominent cause of hearing loss, but regulatory measures regarding sound levels are not enforced.

  • People often crank up the volume on their phones, headphones, and earbuds to as high as 105 decibels, which is about the same level as heard in entertainment venues, where music tends to be played at 104 to 112 decibels.

  • Polls show that an estimated 24% of young people listen to music that is too loud on their headphones and earbuds, while 48% go to loud gigs.

This is a summary of the article, “Prevalence and Global Estimates of Unsafe Listening Practices in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” published in the BMJ Global Health on December 13, 2022. The full article can be found on gh.bmj.com.

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