Smartphone audio has gotten better and louder over the years. While that may sound good — pun unintended — for audiophiles around the world, experts are now sounding the alarm about the health effects of smartphone volume on users. Indeed, the World Health Organization has recently released a new regulation, which targets the loudness of smartphones. The organization worries about the hearing health of users, who should be 900 million in 2050 to suffer hearing loss.
In a non-binding regulation released Wednesday, February 13, the World Health Organization warns about the dangers of excessive use of earphones and recommends manufacture to lower the sound of the devices. The organization recalls that about 50% of young people aged 12 to 35, or 1.1 billion people, are at risk of hearing loss because of “prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds.”
“Since we have the know-how to prevent hearing loss, there should not be so many young people who continue to damage their hearing by listening to music,” says the WHO doctor and chief executive officer, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In order to protect the hearing of people, especially the youngest, the WHO has joined forces with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU, another UN agency) to establish a new international standard for manufacturers of these personal audio devices. This requires manufacturers to include in their devices a system that would assess the risks related to the sound volume and the duration of listening. The goal? To inform the user, and especially to alert him or her in case of danger. The WHO proposes to introduce a “parental control” or an automatic limitation of the intensity of sounds.
“For the moment, we only have our instinct to tell us if the volume is too high,” explains WHO doctor Shelly Chadha, during a press briefing in Geneva. “It’s like driving on a highway, but without a speedometer in the car or a speed limit. What we are proposing is that smartphones be equipped with a speedometer, a measuring system that tells users how high is the sound they are receiving and tells them if they are over the limit,” she said.
Young people “must understand that if they lose hearing, it will not come back,” added Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The organization recalls that more than 5% of the world population, 466 million individuals, suffers from incapacitating hearing loss. Of those affected, 34 million would be children. By 2050, the WHO estimates that this will represent more than 900 million people, or 1 in 10 humans. Adopting these new suggestions would avoid half of these cases, the organization concludes.
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