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WHO highlights threat of recreational noise for hearing loss | Updated: 2015-03-01 10:03

Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned here Friday, ahead of the March 3 International Ear Care Day.

"As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss," said Dr Etienne Krug, WHO director for the Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.

He added that taking simple preventive actions would allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk.

A recent study in middle and high-income countries analyzed by WHO indicate that among teenagers and young adults aged between 12 to 35 years, nearly 50 percent are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices and around 40 percent are exposed to potentially damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues.

WHO recommends that the highest permissible level of noise exposure in the workplace is 85 dB up to a maximum of eight hours a day. For places like nightclubs, bars and sporting events whose noise level usually being about 100 dB, one's hearing is only safe for no more than 15 minutes.

Teenagers and young people can better protect their hearing by keeping the volume down on personal audio devices, wearing earplugs when visiting noisy venues, and using carefully fitted, and, if possible, noise-canceling earphones.

They can also limit the time spent engaged in noisy activities by taking short listening breaks and restricting the daily use of personal audio devices to less than one hour, WHO suggests.

To mark this year's International Ear Care Day, WHO is launching the "Make Listening Safe" initiative to draw attention to the dangers of unsafe listening and promote safer practices, so as to alert young people and their families about the risks of noise-induced hearing loss and advocate towards governments for greater attention to this issue.

According to WHO, an estimated 360 million people worldwide have moderate to profound hearing loss due to various causes, such as noise, genetic conditions, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs and ageing. Half of all cases of hearing loss are avoidable.

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