Yes, your mom is right, loud music can make you deaf

13 February 2019 - 14:06 By nivashni nair
The World Health Organisation and the International Telecommunication Union have issued a new international standard to make phones and other audio devices safer for listening.
The World Health Organisation and the International Telecommunication Union have issued a new international standard to make phones and other audio devices safer for listening.
Image: 123RF/khamidulin

Turn down the volume - before you lose your hearing.

This is the warning from the World Health Organisation (WHO). It claims that nearly 1.1-billion people aged 12-35 are at risk of hearing loss due to "prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to on personal audio devices".

The global health agency and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have now issued a new international standard for the manufacture and use of these devices, including smartphones and audio players, to make them safer for listening.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said young people must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won't come back.

"Given that we have the technological know-how to prevent hearing loss, it should not be the case that so many young people continue to damage their hearing while listening to music," he said.

Ghebreyesus said the new WHO-ITU standard, ahead of World Hearing Day on March 3, would "do much to better safeguard these young consumers as they go about doing something they enjoy".

The standard was developed under WHO’s "Make Listening Safe" initiative to improve listening practices when young people are exposed to music and other sounds at noisy entertainment venues and as they listen to music on their personal audio devices.

WHO said the standard was developed by experts over a two-year process "drawing on the latest evidence and consultations with a range of stakeholders, including experts from government, industry, consumers and civil society."

It urged governments and manufacturers to adopt the voluntary standard, which recommends that personal audio devices include:

  • a "sound allowance" function: software that tracks the level and duration of the user’s exposure to sound as a percentage used of a reference exposure;
  • personalised profile: an individualised listening profile, based on the user’s listening practices, which informs the user of how safely (or not) he or she has been listening and gives cues for action based on this information;
  • volume limiting options: options to limit the volume, including automatic volume reduction and parental volume control; and
  • general information: information and guidance to users on safe listening practices, both through personal audio devices and for other leisure activities.

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