Music lovers in Shrewsbury face hearing loss after just 12 months of headphone use

“Devices can produce sound levels of 120 decibels - louder than the sound of a jet”

Music lovers in Shrewsbury who are addicted to their headphones run the risk of developing hearing problems within months of regular use, research has found.

Based on responses from 8,800 people from 11 countries, including the UK —and compiled by research experts GfK Eurisko in conjunction with the world’s leading hearing specialist Amplifon — the paper shows that the “longer the exposure to music through earphones, the greater the chance that hearing loss will occur.”

Even among young people, where you would expect there to be no hearing problems, there is a progressive level of hearing loss among regular MP3 users.

Entitled ‘Coping With The Noise’, the research paper is a scientific assessment of recent data on hearing health and it looks at the relationship between noise exposure and health, ranging from effects on hearing to the impact on general physical and psychological wellbeing.

One of the paper’s key findings is that the habit of listening to music through earphones has become a mass phenomenon, especially over the past 20 years. The data suggests that some devices can produce maximum sound levels of 120 decibels - louder than the sound of a jet flying overhead at 1,000ft. 

The report defines unsafe levels of noise as exposure to sounds in excess of 80 decibels for eight hours or 100 decibels — that’s the equivalent of a petrol lawn mower — for 15 minutes.

Researchers found that young people are particularly at risk of damaging their hearing, with around 90% of 12-19 year olds using music devices — like MP3 players and smartphones. Half of these admit keeping the volume high, and one out of three say they use the devices very often. According to the paper there is a clear link “between the duration of use and the audiometric threshold, so the longer the exposure to music through earphones, the greater the likelihood of hearing loss.”

However, researchers also found that people are often unaware of how much damage they have done until their hearing loss has progressed considerably.

Adrian Ashley, an audiologist at Amplifon’s Shrewsbury branch, says: “There’s growing evidence that shows people who regularly listen to loud music through earphones are damaging their hearing.

“They don’t often realise they are doing it and it’s a particular concern among young people simply because of the vast numbers who use music players regularly.”

‘Coping With The Noise’ calls on the public to wear hearing protection in very noisy environments. It states: “People who enjoy listening to live music at high sound levels should purchase professional musicians’ earplugs thus enabling them to better appreciate music while protecting their hearing.”

Susan Holland, Chairperson of the Amplifon Group and the Centre for Research and Studies at Amplifon says: “In order to continue to pursue our mission to restore a fully active and  joie de vivre to people with hearing difficulties, it is necessary to deeply understand the number one enemy of hearing, namely noise, its perception in several countries and the consequences it may have on health.

“As the global leader in hearing care, we have promoted the widest survey on noise pollution, conducted by GfK Eurisko all over the world, and invited a multi-disciplinary team of prominent international experts to analyse the noise phenomenon from several points of view: audiological, acoustic, sociological, psychological and urbanistic.”