Experts say Healthy Listening Habits Can Prevent Hearing Loss

By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman

Hearing loss is on the rise, and as people return to loud places such as the gym after pandemic-induced hiatuses, medical professionals are advising them to protect their hearing.

Claire Johnson, manager of clinical services for UnitedHealthcare and an audiologist, said people have a tendency to turn up their headphones to drown out a noisy place like the gym. She suggested noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones can help.

“One good recommendation or quick, easy rule that we recommend is a 60/60 rule,” Johnson explained. “Limiting music to 60 minutes at a time at 60% of the player’s maximum volume.”

Johnson pointed out anything above 85 decibels is considered the top end of the listening levels. Many headphones on the market can reach well above that, but there are phone apps to help people monitor the levels on their headphones. Johnson noted hearing loss is on the rise among young people, and it is connected to the devices used to listen to music.

Yin Ren, assistant professor of Otolaryngology at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, emphasized hearing loss is not an injury which is going to go away. If you have persistent ringing or a loss of hearing, especially in one ear, he suggested seeking medical care right away.

“There’s a time window sometimes in certain types of hearing loss that treatments are beneficial for,” Ren stressed. “Your hearing is something that, often when it’s lost, it cannot be recovered. So it’s good to seek out either audiologists or an ENT or even your primary care to begin with.”

According to the World Health Organization, half of people ages 12-35 are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.