Hearing protected by limiting audio devices to an hour a day

About five to 10 per cent of people who listen to music for more than an hour a day at a high-volume setting for years are considered at high risk of developing permanent hearing loss. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Unplug your audio player’s headphones after an hour, the World Health Organization recommends to protect hearing.

About 1.1 billion teens and young adults are at risk of hearing loss from unsafe levels blasting from devices such as smartphones, noisy nightclubs and sports events, the United Nations health agency said Friday.

It is based the analysis on studies in middle- and high-income countries.

In workplaces, the top level of noise exposure is 85 decibels for a maximum of eight hours per day. But noise levels at dance clubs may reach 100 decibels, a level the agency says is safe for no more than 15 minutes.

People of all ages can “limit the time spent engaged in noisy activities by taking short listening breaks and restricting the daily use of personal audio devices to less than one hour,” WHO said.

About five to 10 per cent of people who listen to music for more than an hour a day at a high volume setting are at high risk of developing permanent hearing loss after five or more years of exposure, according to the European Commission.

The time isn’t a hard limit but rather advice to consider for anyone who spends large parts of the day listening to an mp3 player.

The suggestions were based on commonly heard sound levels from personal audio devices in the peer-reviewed literature, said Dr. Shelly Chadha, WHO’s technical officer for prevention of deafness and hearing loss.

“It is important to keep the volume low and to determine what is the safe listening level on one’s own device,” Chadha said in an email.

“These are all preventive actions which can help to avoid the onset of hearing loss in an individual.”

In 2008, the Hearing Foundation of Canada said 30 per cent of the 145 students surveyed listened at levels of 91 decibels or higher for an average of 2.9 hours a day.

CBC News Posted: Feb 27, 2015 1:08 PM ET