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WHO alerts to rise in noise-induced deafness

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*Wants to limit pollution levels in nightclubs to stop millennials going deaf
*Says 466m people have debilitating hearing loss, up from 360m in 2010

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warnedMillennials are risking deafness with headphones that don’t limit dangerously high noise levels.Some 466 million people already have debilitating hearing loss, up from 360 million in 2010. That figure is expected to nearly double to 900 million, or one in every 10 people, by 2050.

Now, the WHO is urging manufacturers to make smartphones and other audio players cap volume limit – and put time limits on listening to loud music.The European Union is the only part of the world to require output levels on personal audio devices to be set to a standard of 85 decibels, with a maximum of 100.

While some smartphones and other audio devices already offer some of these features, the United Nation (UN) wants a uniform standard to help protect against hearing loss.The United States’ (US) Department of Health suggests noises louder than 85 decibels – about the level of busy city traffic or a food blender – are enough to cause hearing damage

“Think of it like driving on a highway, but without a speedometer in your car or a speed limit,” Dr. Shelly Chadha of the WHO said.“What we’ve proposed is that your smartphones come fitted with a speedometer, with a measurement system which tells you how much sound you’re getting and tells you if you are going over the limit.

“Our effort through this standard is really to empower the user to make the right listening choice or take the risk of developing hearing loss and tinnitus a few years down the line.”

The WHO is also looking at volume levels in places such as nightclubs and sporting arenas. It has some guidelines but they are not widely implemented,” added Chadha. “What we are working on now in WHO is to develop that kind of regulatory framework about the different venues – which could be restaurants, bars, concerts, it could even be fitness classes which often have very high levels of sound being played and exposure for a long time.”

William Shapiro, a clinical associate professor at New York University Langone, explained in January 2018 that damaging the inner-ear’s hair cells is how headphone-related hearing loss begins. In each ear, the inner ear structure called the cochlea – which receives sound in the form of vibrations – has 15,000 hairs.

These tiny, sensory hair cells are crucial to helping us detect sound waves – but are very fragile. The hair cells do not regenerate, so damage to them is permanent — a common cause among people with some types of hearing loss.

“If you’re using an earbud [headphone], a good rule is 60 per cent of the volume no more than 60 minutes a day,” he said.He also recommended using noise-cancelling headphones. “A lot of individuals will crank up the volume because they don’t want to hear outside noise.

“Wearing noise cancelling headphones reduces the outside noise which allows us to reduce the volume of the sound we’re listening to. So it’s very important to keep sound at a low level.”Commuters using public transport are exposed to noise levels that could cause deafness if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time, warns a new study.

Researchers say people should even consider using hearing protection while using buses as well as trains.And efforts to control noise should focus on materials and equipment that provide a quieter environment, according to a study published in the Journal of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.

Study corresponding author Dr. Vincent Lin, of the University of Toronto in Canada, said: ‘This study is the first to look at and quantify the amount of noise people are exposed to during their daily commute, specifically on the Toronto Transit System.

“We now are starting to understand that chronic excessive noise exposure leads to significant systemic pathology, such as depression, anxiety, increased risk of chronic diseases and increased accident risk.“Short, intense noise exposure has been demonstrated to be as injurious as longer, less intense noise exposure.”


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