Under the theme “To hear for life, listen with care!”, the WHO has issued an international standard for safe listening at venues and events. The standard applies to places and activities where amplified music is played.

Over 1 billion people aged 12 to 35 years risk losing their hearing due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud music and other recreational sounds, according to the WHO.

“Millions of teenagers and young people are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging sound levels at venues such as nightclubs, bars, concerts and sporting events,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for the Department for Noncommunicable Diseases.

“The risk is intensified as most audio devices, venues and events do not provide safe listening options and contribute to the risk of hearing loss. The new WHO standard aims to better safeguard young people as they enjoy their leisure activities,” she added.

Six recommendations

The global standard for safe listening at venues and events highlights six recommendations for implementation to ensure that venues and events limit the risk of hearing loss to their patrons while preserving high-quality sound and an enjoyable listening experience.

The six recommendations are:

  • 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 for use
  • Access to quiet zones for people to rest their ears and decrease the risk of hearing damage
  • Provision of training and information to staff.

The standard was developed under the WHO’s Make Listening Safe initiative which seeks to improve listening practices especially among young people.

Hearing loss due to loud sounds is preventable

Exposure to loud sounds causes temporary hearing loss or tinnitus. But prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to permanent hearing damage, resulting in irreversible hearing loss.

Young people can better protect their hearing by:

  • Keeping the volume down on personal audio devices
  • Using well-fitted and, if possible, noise-cancelling earphones/headphones
  • Wearing earplugs at noisy venues
  • Getting regular hearing check-ups
  • Advocating for the global standard

The WHO encourages governments to develop and enforce legislation for safe listening and raise awareness of the risks of hearing loss. The private sector should include the WHO’s recommendations for safe listening features in their products, venues and events.

Survey supports the standard

A survey among young venue-goers supports the standard. The participants in the survey were recruited through social media. 2,264 individuals aged 16–35 completed the questionnaire in the survey.

The survey found that:

  • 82% of the respondents would appreciate having a place within the entertainment venue where they can rest their ears
  • 78% of the respondents do see the need of having a quiet zone in an entertainment venue
  • 53% of the respondents stated that entertainment venues should not be free to decide at which level to play music

Regarding hearing protection, the study found that:

  • 50% of the respondents were willing to pay for hearing protection
  • 49% of the respondents stated that earplugs are uncomfortable
  • 52% of the respondents stated that earplugs do interfere with their enjoyment of music

The findings of the survey were published in the article “Attitudes towards Safe Listening Measures in Entertainment Venues: Results from an International Survey among Young Venue-Goers” which was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Read more about the international standard for safe listening at venues and events here: https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-who-releases-new-standard-to-t…

Read about the findings of the survey here: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/18/23/12860

Sources: https://www.who.int and https://www.mdpi.com

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