A nationwide campaign is launched today (Wed Nov 1) to prevent more than 10 million young people in the UK at risk of hearing loss from listening to loud music and gaming.
The Make Listening Safe Campaign UK is seeking to educate people of the dangers of excessive listening to loud sounds under the slogan ‘Love Sound, Listen With Care.”
In 2015 the World Health Organisation raised the alarm about the growing risk of hearing damage among young people and launched the Make Listening Safe initiative.
This initiative aims to raise awareness about the hearing damage caused by unsafe exposure to leisure sounds. Loud sounds heard during use of personal audio devices while gaming and at loud venues are leaving up to half of all teenagers and young adults (aged 12-35) at risk of hearing loss with the figure of young people at risk in the UK estimated to be over 10 million people.1.
The World Health Organisation also found child gamers are twice as likely to develop hearing loss from playing games with too high sound levels on their headphones than those who did not.
Safe sound dosage is 80 dB for 40 hours a week for an adult and 75 dB for 40 hours a week for a child. Unsafe levels of sounds exposure can be, for example, exposure to more than 80 decibels (dBA) for 40 hours/week (the dB equivalent of listening to heavy road traffic) or 101dB for 19 minutes/week (the dB equivalent of listening to live rock music).
One of the people affected by hearing loss is UK musician PinkPantheress, whose new album ‘Heaven Knows’ launches next week. Last year, the 22-year-old posted on TikTok that years of exposure to loud music had left her 80% deaf in her right ear. Other high profile people who’ve experienced hearing loss or tinnitus from listening to or playing loud music are Rick Astley (who now wears hearing aids in social situations), BBC broadcaster and drummer Owain Wyn Evans and singer/producer will.i.am.
In response to the WHO’s call for action to prevent hearing loss due to unsafe listening, concerned stakeholders are launching the Make Listening Safe Campaign UK.
The UK campaign has the support of Great Ormond Street Hospital, Tinnitus UK, the RNID, NHS England, the Global Esports Federation and the British music industry body the BPI.
The launch event for this campaign will be held on November 1st at the Sky Guild Gaming Centre, a professional esports organisation.
The World Health Organisation carried out a systematic, scoping literature review focused on the relationship between gaming, esports, and hearing. The review synthesized evidence from published studies, which predominantly focused on children and PC/video games.
The systematic scoping review showed in samples of children:
- Gamers had a 52% higher likelihood of self-reported tinnitus compared to non-gamers.
- Gamers were more than twice as likely to have measurable high-frequency hearing loss compared to non-gamers
- Boys played at louder volumes and for more time than girls
- Studies included in this review report an average weekly gaming duration of 3-4 hours/week for children and an average loudness of 85 to 90 dB. These durations and levels would exceed permissible sound exposure levels for children.
A cross-sectional online survey of 488 gamers and esports players from 92 countries (average age 28) carried out for the World Health Organisation also found:
- Nearly half of video game players (42.9%) reported experiencing a ringing in their ears after playing
- Over half (53.3%) reported fullness or fuzziness in their ears
- Among esports players, 45.9% reported a ring in their ears, and 50% reported fullness or fuzziness.
The World Health Organisation estimates that half of all teenagers and young adults (over one billion people) are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, excessive gaming and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events.
An updated study found that unless action is taken, the number of people with hearing loss could rise by 2050 to 2.5 billion people – 1 in 4 of the total world population.
Previous studies have shown that mild hearing loss doubles the risk of developing dementia.
In the UK, the campaign’s slogan will be “Love Sound, Listen With Care” and it will target those between 10 and 40 years of age.
The aims of the campaign are to:
- Ensure people between 10 and 40 years of age are aware of the causes of avoidable hearing loss and highlight how they can mitigate the risks and choose safer options to prevent avoidable hearing loss.
- Highlight the benefits of safe listening to policymakers, health professionals, manufacturers, parents, and others and encourage legislation to make sure safer options are freely available to everyone.
- Foster the development and implementation of standards applicable to personal audio devices and recreational venues to cover safe listening features.
The campaign will seek to target teenagers and young adults between 10 and 40 years of age to warn them of the dangers and how to listen safer.
It will also seek to engage with this audience via relevant influencers and through channels young people engage with – TikTok, Twitch, YouTube as well as schools and social media influencers.
World Health Organisation Technical Lead (Hearing) Dr Shelly Chadha, said: “Hearing loss caused by loud sounds and unsafe listening is both permanent, and preventable. As key stakeholders in health, we need to act to make prevention possible.”
Mark Laureyns Co-Chair of Global MLSC said: “Our Make Listening Safe campaign is not about spoiling the fun. We should enjoy the sounds we love, like our favourite music, the sounds of life and nature, at their best. But if we do this responsibly, we can ensure we can keep enjoying these sounds for the rest of our lives.”
Stephen Wheatley, Chair of MLSC UK added: “We are facing an aural epidemic of hearing loss unless we do something, The Make Listening Safe Campaign is committed to creating a world where nobody’s hearing is put in danger due to unsafe listening. The launch of the Make Listening Safe Campaign UK is the first step in making individuals aware of those activities which might be classed as unsafe listening so that they can take steps to look after their own hearing.”
The WHO, along with ITU is the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies, has set a global standard for safe listening personal audio devices and systems and is working with manufacturers of smartphones and headphones to promote their implementation.
WHO has also set a standard for safe listening entertainment venues and is working to make recommendations about safe listening features in video gaming hardware and software.
You can watch a pre-launch video about the UK campaign here.
- Figure based on UK proportion of people between 12-35 (CENSUS 2021) at risk using WHO global percentage of nearly 50% of people between 12-35 at risk
Images, videos. rushes and interviews can be downloaded here
If you’d like to attend the launch event from 1700 to 1900 on Wednesday November 1 at the Sky Guild Gaming Centre, 2a Chance Street, E16JU, please email email@example.com or register here
Campaign Ambassador Patrik “Zero” Žúdel
One of the campaign’s ambassadors is recently retired e-sport athlete Patrik “Zero” Žúdel who developed tinnitus from playing a shoot-em-up game.
Patrik, 24, was playing this loud game with explosions five days a week, eight hours a day.
Patrik Žúdel said: “I remember I was getting to bed after a full day of gaming and I heard this really loud ringing.
“That bothered me so I had a hard time sleeping because it was so much in the foreground and it’s never really left since. It got a bit quieter, but it never really left.
“For sure it had impacts on my mental health. I would say it made me a bit more paranoid about my future sound exposure.
“I kind of realised what the sound exposure really means. It's started to pay more attention to both gaming and both sound exposure outside of gaming being when I go across the street and I hear a Jack Hammer, I kind of go around or if I go to the movie theatre, I have earplugs in.
“I think the most important thing is to realise how really vulnerable we are and how mentally devastating it could be. I constantly hear a high pitch sound. You hear it when you wake up, when you go to sleep.
“To me, there isn't such a thing as silence anymore, and I think if people will try to empathise with that notion of, imagine your life without silence, I think that could lead to people being more careful.
“For me, a very important thing was also realising that hearing damage can happen not as a result of one specific instance of a very loud sound, but of exposure over time of loud, but not too loud, sound. Your ears don't need to hurt for the sound to be loud enough to hurt you over time.”
About the Make Listening Safe Campaign (MLSC) UK
In a landmark initiative aimed at safeguarding auditory health, the "Make Listening Safe Campaign UK" will officially launch at an in-person event on 1st November 2023.
The WHO launched the global Make Listening Safe initiative in 2015 with the objective of substantially increasing the awareness of the causes of avoidable hearing loss amongst those between the ages of ten and forty and chose to pilot the campaign in the UK before it is rolled out to all its other 194 member states.
This initiative, which comes in response to the growing global concern of increasing rates of hearing loss and noise-induced hearing damage, is a vital step towards promoting safe listening practices and raising awareness about the long-term consequences of excessive sound and noise exposure. With the UK being among the nations grappling with rising hearing impairment cases, the launch of this program is a significant milestone in the nation's public health efforts.
The MLSC UK has adopted a multifaceted approach, including public education campaigns, policy advocacy, and collaboration with various stakeholders, including governmental bodies, industry players, and healthcare professionals. By encouraging responsible listening habits and urging the use of hearing protection devices or hearing safeguarding when necessary, this initiative aims to reduce the alarming prevalence of hearing-related issues among the UK population.
The launch of this UK campaign will be showcased by the WHO-led World Hearing Forum and set a precedent for other countries to follow in promoting safe listening practices and protecting the hearing abilities of their populations.
The MLSC UK will run a sequence of short campaigns focussed on different areas, the first will be to increase the awareness of avoidable risks amongst headphone users, with a call to action being to sign an ePetition requesting His Majesty’s Government to adopt higher hearing safeguarding standards/regulations in line with the WHO/ITU recommendations.
UK supporters backing the Make Listening Safe Campaign UK include:
Great Ormond Street Hospital, Anglia Ruskin University, BPI, CIICA, COPE, Derby University, Eargym, HearAngel/LimitEar, the Global Esports Federation, Southampton University, ManCAD, NADP, NHS England, Noise Abatement Society, Night Times Industries Association, RNID, ROHCG, The UK Noise Association, Thomson Screening, Tinnitus UK, UCL, UK HCA, University of Manchester, University of Nottingham, Daisy First Aid, Royal Academy of Music, eSchools.