WHO will Make Listening Safe? - HEARsmart
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WHO will Make Listening Safe?


Hot on the heels of World Hearing Day on the 3rd March, the World Health Organisation (WHO), in association with the International Telecomunications Union (ITU), bought together international experts and interested parties to talk about the initiative: Make Listening Safe.

The initiative was launched in 2015 when WHO estimated that 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to “unsafe listening practices” – this relates to noise damage caused by current trends in listening which can be too loud, too long and too often. WHO/ITU are interested in creating a global partnership to promote safe listening and Warwick from the HEARsmart team went to Geneva to represent our research and activities.

Make Listening Safe recognizes that noise-induced hearing loss is one of the few types of hearing loss that is preventable – and have focused on three areas for targeted action:

  • Technology: the same technologies that can pose threats to hearing (eg personal listening devices) could be used to raise awareness and promote safe listening practices. The initiative is currently looking into setting safety standards and developing apps to assist users to listen more safely.
  • Health communication: a working group in this area is developing a strategy and messaging to be associated with listening devices and apps so they reach and really talk to the users.
  • Risk assessment and research: much work has been done around risks associated with sound exposure in the workplace, but how this translates to recreational or leisure exposure is not as well understood, this is an area that the initiative is keen to tackle using a standardised approach.

The ultimate outcome of the working group is to assist the ITU with development of a Guideline for safe listening devices/systems, that will:

  • apply to any personal listening device (including those used for music, games, etc)
  • use consistent terms and definitions that match ITU, ISO and IEC agreed conventions
  • adopt exposure limits that match current workplace noise exposure limits (the technical details of this are: (LAeq,8h) of 85 dB (1 Pa2h) with an equal energy exchange rate of 3 dB)
  • include level/s of acceptable risk and recommended methods for estimating noise exposure
  • recommend appropriate messages that match expectations of the target users
  • include recommendations for the requirements of ‘Safe Listening Apps’ that might be developed for use on personal listening devices.

We’ll keep you posted with developments in this space!