PAHO says that noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one billion young people worldwide could be at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. Over 43 million people between the ages of 12–35 years live with disabling hearing loss due to different causes. Among teenagers and young adults aged 12–35 years in middle- and high-income countries: Nearly 50% are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices. Around 40% are exposed to potentially damaging sound levels at clubs, discotheques and bars.

Exposure to loud sounds for any length of time causes fatigue of the ear’s sensory cells. The result is temporary hearing loss or tinnitus (a ringing sensation in the ear). A person enjoying a loud concert may come out experiencing ‘muffled’ hearing or tinnitus. The hearing improves as the sensory cells recover. When the exposure is particularly loud, regular or prolonged, it can cause permanent damage of the sensory cells and other structures, resulting in irreversible hearing loss.
The high frequency range (i.e. high-pitched sounds) is impacted first and may not be noticeable immediately. Continued exposure leads to progression of hearing loss, ultimately affecting speech comprehension and having a negative impact on the individual’s quality of life. Some people may be more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss than others. Genetic predisposition, chronic conditions such as diabetes and exposure to cigarette smoke are known to increase the risk of acquiring noise induced hearing loss.
Because we cannot tell who the most susceptible individuals are, prevention is the most effective way to avoid such hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss can affect many aspects of life, including a person’s social and educational development and their ability to work. Children and adults who live in noisy environments may face increased psychological stress and anxiety. In young children, noise-induced hearing loss hinders language acquisition. Learning disabilities, anxiety and attention-seeking behaviours are also common outcomes of hearing loss.
Chronic noise exposure in classrooms can impede academic performance in areas such as reading ability, comprehension, short- and long-term memory, and motivation. On average, children who are exposed to noisy learning environments have lower assessment scores on standardized tests. Noise exposure in young people also contributes to age-related hearing loss.
Inadequate hearing protection during activities such as shooting firearms or listening to loud music during adolescence may lead to significant communication difficulties much later in life. Listening to devices with earphones can also be unsafe in additional ways. For example, use during walking or cycling decreases auditory perception and increases the listener’s chances of being involved in a collision. (Source PAHO)

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