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World Hearing Day: Tips for safe listening

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ANN ARBOR—About 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults around the world are at risk of developing hearing loss due to the unsafe use of smartphones and other personal audio devices, and exposure to damaging levels of sound in noisy venues.

Richard Neitzel, associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, is working with the World Health Organization on a new initiative called "Make Listening Safe."

Richard Neitzel.Richard Neitzel."My work has been designed to help us better understand the exposures and effects of noise," he said. "About 360 million people worldwide face moderate to high hearing loss due to various causes like noise, genetic conditions, chronic ear infections, aging, etc.And million others are also at risk of other health impacts of noise including cardiovascular disease."

This year's World Hearing Day (March 3) aims to draw attention to the economic impact of hearing loss and cost effectiveness of interventions to address it.

Neitzel offers tips for maintaining safe hearing:

  • Recognize that noise is hazardous. It can cause hearing loss, cardiovascular disease, annoyance and sleep disruption.
  • Reduce the volume when listening to music, allowing you to listen longer and safely.
  • Use "noise-isolating" or "sound-blocking" earbuds to listen to music: They block background noise more effectively than other types of listening devices, so you can enjoy music at a lower volume while still being able to hear it clearly.
  • Limit time spent in noisy activities: Take frequent breaks during high noise activities.
  • Recognize the warning signs: Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and difficulty in hearing high-pitched sounds, understanding speech on the telephone or following conversations in noisy venues.

Related research by Neitzel: