A billion at risk for hearing loss from exposure to loud music

Story highlights

  • 50% of those studied listen to unsafe sound levels on personal audio devices
  • Damaging levels of noise also come from spending time in loud bars or sporting events
  • Coldplay's Chris Martin and rapper Plan B wish they'd protected their ears

(CNN)"Hey dude -- can you turn your music down?"

If anyone says this to you while you're wearing your earbuds, take note: You are probably endangering your hearing.
More than one billion teens and young adults are at risk of losing their hearing, according to WHO (that's the World Health Organization, not the rock band).
    It's not just old folks who suffer hearing loss. Just by listening to music at what you probably think is a normal level, or hanging out in loud bars, nightclubs and music and sporting events, you can permanently damage your hearing.
    By analyzing listening habits of 12- to 35-year-olds in wealthier countries around the world, WHO found nearly 50% of those studied listen to unsafe sound levels on personal audio devices and about 40% are exposed to damaging levels of music and noise at entertainment venues.
    It doesn't take much time to damage your hearing at a sports bar or nightclub. According to the WHO, "exposure to noise levels of 100 dB, which is typical in such venues, is safe for no more than 15 minutes."

    You can't get it back

    Once you lose your hearing, it won't come back.
    Rapper Plan B and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin know that all too well. They both suffer from tinnitus, hearing loss that causes a permanent and irritating ringing in the ears, because they didn't protect their hearing. Now they've joined forces with a British hearing loss association to warn others.
    "I suffer from tinnitus," says Plan B on actionhearingloss.org. "When I first developed it, I thought it was trains rushing by my house as I live near a railway line. It was really loud and an extremely high pitched ringing in my ears. I now have to wear special earplugs when I go to bed to help stop my ears from ringing."
    "Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don't think about until there's a problem," says Martin. "I've had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears, it hasn't got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I'd thought about it earlier."