More than one billion people aged 12 to 35 risk losing their hearing because of prolonged and excessive exposure to loud music and other recreational sounds, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
The warning from the organisation was timed to coincide with World Hearing Day, which took place yesterday, and designed to raise awareness of the dangers of listening to amplified music.
WHO has also published a new global standard for safe listening at venues and events.
For occupational health professionals this issue is important not only for supporting employees who may be suffering hearing loss as a result of attending music events, but because of the potential risks associated with working in these sorts of environments.
In 2019, for example, the Manchester Centre for Audiology and Deafness published a study of 23,000 people that suggested music industry workers were almost twice as likely to report tinnitus as those working within finance.
Advice on hearing loss
- Provide protection from excessive noise levels, such as ear plugs or ear defenders
- Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded
- Provide employees with information, instruction, and training
- Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health
- Consider the sound levels of power tools and machinery when buying new equipment
- Book a workplace noise assessment
- Organise assessments to identify equipment, support and any reasonable adjustments that can help employees with tinnitus work more easily
- Make employees aware of the various sound therapy products that are available and can offer tinnitus relief
These tips have come from Gavin Scarr Hall, director of health and safety at Peninsula
It is not, of course, just those working in or exposed to amplified music who are at risk of hearing loss. Hearing loss can be an issue for a wide range of occupations, including factory and construction workers, those working within agriculture, at airports, and bar and hospitality staff, to name but a few.
The WHO standard, meanwhile, has outlined six key recommendations to limit the risk of hearing loss in these environments:
- a maximum average sound level of 100 decibels;
- live monitoring and recording of sound levels using calibrated equipment by designated staff;
- optimising venue acoustics and sound systems to ensure enjoyable sound quality and safe listening;
- making personal hearing protection available to audiences including instructions on use;
- access to quiet zones for people to rest their ears and decrease the risk of hearing damage; and
- provision of training and information to staff.
“Governments, civil society and private sector entities such as manufacturers of personal audio devices, sound systems, and video gaming equipment as well as owners and managers of entertainment venues and events have an important role to play in advocating for the new global standard,” said WHO assistant director-general Dr Ren Minghui.
“We must work together to promote safe listening practices, especially among young people,” he added.