A study from Macquarie University in Sydney in Australia has found that 41% of the users of personal listening devices (PLDs) think they have a hearing loss. 20% also reported difficulties with speech in noise.
The younger, the longer
The researchers found that the youngest age group – 15 to 19 year olds – listened to PLDs for an average of around 88 hours a month. Older age groups incrementally decreased in the average amount of time they reported using PLDs, with the over 50s listening to a personal device for an average of only 47 hours a month.
The research was led by experts at National Acoustic Laboratories within Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub.
“For 18- to 35-year-olds, higher-risk status was associated with a greater proportion of these self-reported hearing difficulties, including perceived poorer speech perception,” said lead author Dr Megan Gilliver from National Acoustic Laboratories at Macquarie University.
“Interestingly, reported average listening volume stayed fairly similar across age groups at around 48-55% of the maximum volume of a device. However, within the age groups, particularly the younger ones, we were able to determine certain groups that were at greater risk of hearing loss due to opting to listen to high volumes for longer durations,” said Dr Gilliver.
According to the researchers, the results indicate that while most Australians are listening responsibly, there are many who need to either drop the volume a little or listen for a shorter duration to reduce the risk of experiencing hearing difficulties.
“High-risk users, who listened at high volumes for longer durations, in all age groups were more likely to report hearing difficulties, particularly in relation to speech and conversation, compared with those with lower levels of risk. These results suggest a potential relationship between PLD use and speech-in-noise hearing difficulties, indicating that PLD users need to be aware that their listening habits could be impacting their ability to hear in other settings,” said Dr Gilliver.
Three simple questions
The researchers say that the headphone listeners need to ask themselves three simple questions: How loud, how long and how often do you listen? The researchers recommend keeping sound levels below 80% of full volume and limiting listening time to no more than 1.5 hours per day. The researchers also recommend the PLD users to invest in good quality, well-fitting, noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones.
The study also found that the types of PLDs Australians prefer listening to include MP3 devices, computers and phones which made up a combined 88% of total listening duration of all participants.