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New Report: Exposure to Loud Sounds & Headphone Use Among Teens and Younger Adults in New York City

guy-listening-to-music-headphonesIn recognition of National Protect Your Hearing Month, the Health Department has released an Epi Data Brief entitled, “Exposure to Loud Sounds and Headphone Use Among Teens and Younger Adults in New York City.” The data brief highlights data on New York City (NYC) teens and younger adults’ exposure to loud sounds and headphone use. Exposure to loud sounds puts people at risk of hearing damage, including hearing loss and tinnitus (a buzzing or ringing in the ear). Because the damage is cumulative, exposure to loud sounds at younger ages can result in greater long-term hearing loss. Forty percent of NYC adults ages 18 to 44 visited loud venues at least a few times per month, while 14 percent visited loud venues as often as a few times per week. Ninety-two percent of NYC teens listened to music with headphones in 2013. Among teens who listened for 10 or more hours in an average week, 41 percent normally listened at the maximum volume, compared with only 12 percent among those who usually listened for less than an hour in an average week. The full Epi Data Brief with data tables can be found here.

“Listening to your headphones at high volume or attending loud concerts, restaurants and bars regularly can take a toll on a person’s health and hearing,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “When you are young, it is hard to imagine being hard of hearing. But technology now makes it far too easy to be exposed to unhealthy sound levels. I encourage parents to talk to their teenage children and discuss ways to prevent hearing problems down the road.”

Key findings:
· Loud restaurants or bars were the most commonly visited venues – 33 percent of adults ages 18 to 44 visited loud restaurants or bars, 17 percent attended loud concerts or sporting events, and 12 percent visited loud clubs a few times per month or more.
· Among teen listeners, the prevalence of headphone listening at maximum volume was highest among Black teens, followed by Latino, White, and Asian teens respectively (43 percent, 32 percent, 14 percent, and 10 percent).
· Girl headphone listeners were more likely to normally listen at the maximum volume than boy listeners (30 percent vs. 27 percent).
· About six in 10 (58 percent) NYC younger adults (ages 18 to 44) were headphone listeners in 2014. Forty-two percent of younger adult listeners used headphones to listen to a personal music player daily compared with 36 percent in 2011.
· In 2014, among younger adult headphone listeners, daily listening was higher among men (45 percent vs. 38 percent among women) and Latinos and Blacks compared with Asian/Pacific Islanders (46 percent and 43 percent vs. 33 percent).

“Noise pollution impacts our environment and quality-of-life. This Health Department Epi Data Brief shows that noise pollution including loud sounds and extended headphone use can put teens at risk of hearing damage,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee. “We must encourage our young adults to minimize their exposure to loud noise and form healthier habits. I thank DOH Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett for her leadership on this important, and preventable, issue.”

“We live in an increasingly noisy society and are exposed to loud sound regularly from the environment or recreational activities such as listening to music or other media through earphones in personal listening devices. Research indicates that long-term use of personal listening devices through earphones at excessive levels can pose risk to the auditory system,” said Professor Yula C. Serpanos, PhD, CCC-A, Program Coordinator, Long Island Doctor of Audiology (AuD) Consortium. “New Yorkers can protect their hearing by moving away from the sound, lowering the volume, or using hearing protection such as earplugs. Listening through earphones with personal devices can be safe when used appropriately and in moderation”

“It is not how only how loud one listens but also how long. Consequently, devices that seek only to limit earphone output level ignore the vitally important risk component of duration of use,” said Professor Sandra Levey, Ph.D, School of Health Sciences, Human Services, and Nursing, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences. “Listening to music in noisy surroundings, one is more likely to raise the volume to risky levels. Thus, it is important to use safe-listening earphones that block background noise.”

Listening to music in noisy surroundings, one is more likely to raise the volume to risky levels. Thus, it is important to use safe-listening earphones that block background noise.

One can safely listen to music when using a PLD for 4.6 hours at 70 percent of full volume when using the supplied earphones without greatly increasing the risk of hearing loss. The louder a sound is, the less time one can safely listen.

There are simple steps New Yorkers can take to protect themselves from the health risks associated with loud sounds. When listening to music with headphones, it is best to reduce the volume, limit listening time and take regular breaks. If a loud environment cannot be avoided, limit the time spent exposed to the loud sound, move away from the source of the noise and use appropriate hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

New Yorkers can also call 311 to report noisy conditions. Both the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Police Department respond to noise complaints as part of the City’s effort to lower levels of ambient noise for all New Yorkers.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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