More than a billion people risk losing their hearing because of the habit of listening to music at high volume and for a long time. The World Health Organization is sounding the alarm on the occasion of World Hearing Day, held on 3 March.

Listening to music at full volume is a continuous hearing stress that can lead to an early decline in hearing and unfortunately cases are now growing compared to the past. There are many cases of early reduction of the hearing threshold for those living in industrialized and noisy cities. If we add the incorrect listening of music, wherever you are and at excessive volumes, we can have harmful effects on our ears,” says Dr. Luca Malvezzi, specialist in Otorhinolaryngology and Facial Cervical Surgery in Humanitas.

“Often the volume is further increased to exclude external noise, for example when travelling on public transport in order to intensify the enjoyment of music. This makes it easy to exceed 80-100 decibels. A sound delivered at 100-120 decibels is equivalent to the noise of a chainsaw in action or jet at take-off. Speaking is delivered and heard normally at 30-40 decibels and this would be the intensity at which to listen to music without risk “.


Risks of a noisy environment

“Those living in large cities are exposed to continuous stress to the hearing system, mainly by the so-called noise pollution. This can result in the risk of premature aging of hearing, accompanied by physiological ageing of the hearing system, which can already be seen after the twentieth year of age on acute frequencies (8000 Hz). Just think that the noise of a busy road is around 80/100 decibels, a noise slightly lower than the one emitted by a pneumatic hammer. When the hearing system deteriorates, the high and medium frequencies are the first to be affected. Presbycusis can interfere with social life, resulting in difficulties in distinguishing words, sometimes in older people, and it can contribute to isolation and sadder senility,” explains Dr. Malvezzi.


Tips for listening to music safely

To preserve your hearing, you don’t have to give up music, but – as the specialist suggests – it’s enough to take some precautions.

Follow the 60/60 rule can be a good suggestion, i.e. listening to music at no more than 60% of the maximum volume and no more than 60 minutes at a time.

You should also prefer external headphones to earphones, because the sound from the headphones is softer and less traumatic on the eardrum membrane. The earphones are placed directly in the ear cup and have a more damaging potential for the eardrum, precisely because the delivery of sound is in direct (or almost in direct) contact with the membrane,” concludes Dr. Malvezzi.