Turn down for what: Hearing Safety


 Listening to music while walking to class, using earphones to watch a movie on your laptop and going to concerts are all hallmarks of being a college student. But we may need to start changing our habits. 

A new study just released by the World Health Organization estimates that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk for permanent hearing loss. 

I would never want to knowingly jeopardize my ability to listen to my favorite musical pieces, hear my favorite movie characters banter or to talk effortlessly with my friends. But that is exactly what a lot of us young adults are doing … 1.1 billion of us to be exact.

I don’t mean to imply that those born without hearing or who lose the ability to hear naturally are drastically disadvantaged. But, the reality is that teenagers and young adults who currently have the ability to hear have grown accustomed to moving through daily life very much relying on it.

Certainly we could readjust our lifestyle if we were to lose that sense, but it would be an inarguably difficult readjustment. Further, it’s a hypothetical change that we can take simple measures toward preventing now.

Most of us assume we’ll be fine if we attend concerts and listen to blaring music — I know I personally don’t do enough to guard myself against hearing loss, and neither do the majority of my friends.

So let’s get serious about this. I’m fully aware that most college concert goers are not overly concerned about their hearing. I think this is likely because the effects of listening to sound at an unsafe volume often don’t occur for many years.

It can be hard to be scared about something happening so slowly; it may seem non-threatening, almost like it isn’t happening at all. But hearing loss is a real possibility for far too many of us.

The WHO study piqued my interest, and I started looking into exactly how loud something has to be to cause hearing loss.

As it turns out, not that loud.

It is estimated that anything at or above 85 decibels, a measurement for sound, can result in noise-induced hearing loss. To put that in perspective, 85 decibels is as loud as heavy traffic from inside the car or a hair dryer.

That’s only just the lowest end of the threshold of when a sound can begin to significantly damage your hearing.

For instance, a loud rock concert is around 115 decibels, easily in the range for lasting hearing damage. Yet, some Illinois students flock to them almost every weekend.

Or, if you are someone who likes to listen to his or her iPod at full blast, you should know that level of sound becomes unsafe after just five minutes. Still, it’s a given that many college students listen at full volume for much longer than that. 

I think another reason that we, as the majority of college students, don’t take this more seriously is because we know that what we may have to do for ear safety could sometimes be inconvenient.

But let’s suck it up; we need to start taking this more seriously. Yes, this may mean wearing earplugs to concerts (but let’s face it: Concert music is usually too loud anyway).

This can also mean utilizing less obvious alternatives like wearing noise-canceling headphones. This will allow you to only hear what you want to, and your ears will be subjected to less noise.

Turn the level down on your iPod, or at least try to listen to it less throughout the day. Many researchers suggest the 60/60 rule; listen to your iPod on less than 60 percent volume for less than 60 minutes. 

Consider lowering the maximum volume on your iPod so that you are never tempted to push it above 85 decibels — or that you never do it accidentally. 

Whatever you do, be sure not to fall asleep listening to your earphones. If you need white noise to help you fall asleep, play it out of a speaker instead.

Just ensure that you are doing something to protect your ear health and make a habit of it. 

Start taking your ability to hear well more seriously; I know I’m going to.

Don’t assume that you’re not one of the 1.1 billion teens and young adults at risk for losing your hearing; take active measures to prevent it.

Alex is a junior in LAS.

[email protected]