Are you listening to music on your phone or MP3 player right now? If so, have you been listening for more than an hour? It’s time to take the earbuds out if you want to save your hearing, the World Health Organization said Friday. Too many people around the globe are listening to music for too long and at too high volumes, the agency said in a report. The WHO recommends headphone users limit their listening to about an hour a day, which could be a tall order for music lovers.
More and more people ages 12-25 are suffering from hearing loss now than in years past, according to the WHO. More than 43 million people in that age group have permanent damage to their hearing. A person who listens to music on headphones at a volume of 95 decibels, or roughly the volume of a jackhammer at 50 feet, for as little as 30 minutes daily “is going to get irreversibly damaged [hearing] in a couple of years’ time,” according to WHO hearing loss expert Dr. Shelly Chadha, according to The Associated Press.
Around one in seven people across the globe are at risk for hearing loss. “Many patrons of nightclubs, bars and sporting events are often exposed to even higher levels of sound, and should therefore considerably reduce the duration of exposure,” the WHO press release said. “For example, exposure to noise levels of 100 dB, which is typical in such venues, is safe for no more than 15 minutes.”
The WHO recommends that patrons and employees wear hearing protection when they go to loud concerts or bars. The organization also recommends that managers of these venues keep noise levels low and offer “chill out” rooms for patrons to get away from the constant barrage of loud music. Headphone users can better preserve their hearing by using noise-canceling headphones or just simply turning down the volume on their MP3 players.
Many noises regularly encountered in cities like New York, London and Tokyo can be extremely damaging to hearing. A subway train coming into the station should be heard for no more than 15 minutes, and a police siren can damage hearing in just nine seconds, the WHO said. Read more of their listening recommendations via BBC. Chadha added that if you “cannot understand conversation around you, you know that this is too loud.”
What is regarded as the loudest sound known to man was made when the Krakatoa volcano erupted in 1883, in what is now Indonesia. It blew out the eardrums of people 40 miles away, was 170 decibels at 100 miles away, was heard up to 3,000 miles away and traveled around the world four times.
Read the WHO’s leaflet on how to listen safely here and download some nifty posters promoting safe listening here. The WHO also offers an easy-to-understand infographic.