More than one billion people are at risk of losing their hearing, UN warns

A generation of music lovers are at risk of losing their hearing to audio players that don’t limit dangerously high sound levels, according to the UN health agency.

Unveiling new guidelines on Tuesday, the UN said that more that more than one billion 13 to 25-year-olds are damaging their ears by listening to loud music through headphones.

hearing loss UN report
Photo: Dani Hansen

“So, our effort through this standard is really to empower the user to make the right listening choice and decision, either to practice safe listening or to take the risk of developing hearing loss and tinnitus down the line.”

The UN recommended the implementation of functions on personal audio devices that monitor how loud, and for how long, people listen to music, in an effort to counter noise-induced hearing loss and related conditions such as tinnitus – commonly experienced as a ringing sound inside the ear.

World Health Organisation (WHO) technical officer for the prevention of deafness and hearing loss, Shelly Chadha, said it’s important for users to monitor their own volume levels, and adopt safe listening practices.

Although the WHO says it has no clear evidence that one billion people are at risk of damaging their ears, Chadha said the figure is based on a study conducted four years ago. According to Chadha, the study focused on the listening habits of young people, and has proved valuable in researching hearing loss solutions.

“At the moment, we don’t really have anything solid other than our instinct to tell us: are we doing this right, or is this something that is going to lead to tinnitus and hearing loss a few years down the line?”