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A risk of hearing loss – NIHL

By Floro Mercene

Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, occurs when your ears are exposed to overly loud sounds. Any sound over 85 decibels (dB) is considered to be dangerous to the ears and your hearing. For example, at a loud rock concert, sound may reach 115 decibels, and only a short 15 minutes can cause cochlear damage. The only way to prevent NIHL is to limit exposure to loud sounds and to wear ear protection.

In 2015, WHO (World Health Organization) highlighted the serious threat posed by exposure to recreational noise. It said that some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound in noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events. Data from studies in middle- and high-income countries analyzed by WHO indicate that among teenagers and young adults aged 12-35 years, nearly 50% are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices and around 40% are exposed to potentially damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues. Unsafe levels sounds can be, for example, exposure to noise in excess of 85 decibels for eight hours or 100 decibels for 15 minutes.

Safe listening depends on the intensity or loudness of sound, and the duration and frequency of listening. Exposure to loud sounds can result in temporary hearing loss or tinnitus which is a ringing sensation in the ear. When the exposure is to a particularly loud sound, and the exposure duration is regular or prolonged, it can lead to permanent damage of the ear’s sensory cells, resulting in irreversible hearing loss. Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk.