It’s time to turn the volume down

To mitigate hearing problems


By: Diana Bello Aristizabal

Para leer en Español


It’s a fact that every day we learn to tolerate more noise and sound devices companies offer the possibility of increasing the volume a little bit more as the years go by. However, the misuse we make of the innovative sound systems of cellphones, headphones, speakers and computers, among others, as well as noise pollution are putting the hearing health of many at risk.

This was demonstrated in a recent study published in the British Medical Journal Global Health according to which, between 670 and 1,350 million teenagers and young adults in the world lose or may lose their hearing due to high volumes.

This is a problem that was also addressed by the World Health Organization at the beginning of last year when it announced that 1,500 million people in the world live with some degree of hearing loss, while more than 1,000 million young adults are at risk of permanent, preventable hearing loss.

In addition, the organization predicted that by 2050 there will be almost 2,500 million people with some degree of hearing loss and at least 700 million will require rehabilitation.

Given this scenario, we need to start putting into motion strategies now to reduce the risk of suffering from hearing loss or deafness. “The earlier in life you start protecting your ears, the more we can lessen the impact later in adulthood, when hearing loss occurs most often,” says Dr. Alicia Restrepo, audiologist and assistant professor of University of Miami.


The higher the volume, the shorter the exposure time

Although having good hearing health doesn’t depend only on executing healthy hearing practices, since factors such as age, certain medications, injuries, genetic predisposition, earwax and infections in the ear canal also play a role, we can do many things on a daily basis.

Dr. Alicia Restrepo

According to Dr. Restrepo, the most important one is to control volume. This means that the device we use is irrelevant so long as the volume is in low mode. “Although headphones are closer to the eardrum and exert more pressure, not for that they represent a greater danger. In fact, sometimes they are better than, for example, a concert or a fireworks show because in the latter it’s nearly impossible to control or reduce the volume.”

Despite this, we must be careful with the use of headphones in children because their ear canal is smaller, which causes the sound pressure to be higher. “A comfortable volume for an adult may still be too high for a minor. So it’s always better to lower it a little more than normal”, adds the audiologist, who recommends buying output limiting headphones that prevent kids from exceeding an adequate volume.

Other strategies to reduce hearing loss in this population, according to the WHO, include following a vaccination schedule, following good maternal and child care practices, and detecting and treating ear conditions that are very common in early childhood.

On the other hand, musician’s earplugs that protect ears at musical events, parties or any other place where there is a high exposure to noise are very useful for both children and adults.

Most commercially available ones cost no more than $40 and can be purchased online, at pharmacies, or be custom-made at the doctor. Its essential function is to reduce the external volume to a safe level.

Another option is to download the Sound Meter-Noise detector app that allows users to identify the decibel values ??of the area where they are located at. The purpose of this tool is to track noise pollution in order to avoid such environments.

“Everyone should have musician’s earplugs and this app downloaded in their cellphones because you never know when you might be exposed to harmful noise. It is especially recommended for those who frequent nightclubs or concerts or work in the entertainment industry,” says Dr. Restrepo.

But if high volume is still present in your life, it’s imperative to know that the higher it is, the shorter the exposure time should be for it to be safe. This means taking more breaks throughout the day with silence if you are used to listening to music at full volume or frequent places with hearing overload.

Following the above suggestions helps protect not only ear health but overall well-being, since individuals with hearing loss are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, social isolation, dementia, or falling due to balance problems.

According to the WHO, untreated hearing loss can affect communication, bring unemployment and economic hardship, or decrease access to better quality jobs.

Pay attention to these signs

If you have the following symptoms, pay a visit to your doctor:

– Frequent ringing in the ear

– Hearing whispers instead of clear messages in conversations

– Constantly asking to be repeated what has already been said

– Confusing words that have similar phonetics.



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