The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of permanent hearing damage due to unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues like nightclubs, bars, and spring events. A review of data from studies in middle- and high-income countries suggests that nearly 50% of teenager and young adults aged 12–35 are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from personal audio devices and about 40% are exposed to potentially unsafe sound levels at entertainment venues. The WHO is recommending a maximum permissible level of noise exposure in the workplace at 85dB for up to a maximum of eight hours a day; exposure to levels of 100dB (typical in entertainment venues) is only safe at a maximum of 15 minutes.

Safe listening times are as follows:

  • 85dB: Level of noise inside a car (eight hours)
  • 90dB: Lawn mower (Two hours, 30 minutes)
  • 95dB: Average motorcycle (47 minutes)
  • 100dB: Car horn or underground train (15 minutes)
  • 105dB: MP3 player at maximum volume (four minutes)
  • 120dB: Vuvuzela or sirens (nine seconds)

Because most people attending a loud concert would prefer to stay longer than 28 seconds, the use of earplugs at noisy venues is highly recommended to reduce the risk of hearing loss. Even the use of personal audio devices should be limited to less than one hour per day, state the WHO, with short listening breaks and limiting the time spend on noisy activities.

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