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World Hearing Day 2019: A WHO initiative to promote safe listening practices

Updated: Mar 7, 2019


On World Hearing Day, March 3, WHO estimates that 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. This includes exposure to loud sounds in noisy entertainment venues and on personal audio devices. In order to address this concern, WHO has launched the Make Listening Safe initiative. This initiative aims to reduce hearing loss caused by listening to loud sounds by promoting safe listening.



On World Hearing Day 2019, WHO will draw attention to the importance of early identification and intervention for hearing loss. Many people live with unidentified hearing loss, often failing to realize that they are missing out on certain sounds and words. Checking one’s hearing would be the first step towards addressing the issue.


People of all ages should follow safe listening practices in order to avoid hearing loss. To achieve this vision, strategies and actions have been planned in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), through a multi-stakeholder collaboration involving experts from professional associations, civil society organizations and the private sector as well as users themselves.


What is safe listening?


The term safe listening simply refers to a specific listening behaviour that does not put your hearing at risk. Your risk of losing your hearing depends on how loud, for how long and how often you are exposed to loud sounds. These may be through personal audio devices or in entertainment venues as well as in the environment around you such as in traffic, in the workplace or at home.

Sensory cells can tolerate only a certain amount of daily noise before being damaged: this amount is called the daily sound allowance. If your cells are exposed to too much sound, you exceed your daily sound allowance which harms your ears and hearing. Over time this results in hearing loss.

Your daily sound allowance works like a monetary allowance or pocket money: you have a limited amount to spend each day. For example, the louder or longer you are exposed to high levels of sound, the more you “spend”, the faster you run out of your allowance.

To practice safe listening, you must stay within the limits of your allowance. On your personal audio device this can be easily done with the help of software that monitors your daily sound allowance. It is more difficult to monitor exposure to loud sounds in entertainment venues or the environment generally.


Hence, to practice safe listening, you should:

  • Always stay within your permissible daily sound allowance.

  • On some days you may visit noisy places such as a arenas hosting sporting events or concerts, discotheques, bars or even a fitness class with loud music. The high level of sound in these places also affects your daily sound allowance. For this reason, you should avoid the additional use of your ear/headphones on these days. If you choose to listen, you should reduce your listening volume and your listening time to make sure you do not exceed your daily sound allowance. Listening at a level of 80 dB for 40 hours per week can help you to listen safely.

  • If you are exposed to sound in your workplace, you must take extra care and ensure that you stay well within your recommended sound allowance.


Check out this video to learn more about dangerous listening levels and times:





This article was first published at https://www.who.int/deafness/world-hearing-day/en/

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