WHO issues new international standard for music devices

The objective is to prevent hearing loss among 1.1 billion young people

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 13 February 2019

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) issued a new international standard for the manufacture and use of musical devices on February 12.

The aim behind the move is to prevent young people from going deaf. Nearly 50 per cent of people aged 12-35 years — or 1.1 billion young people — are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.

Over five per cent of the world’s population — or 466 million people — has disabling hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children); impacting on their quality of life. The majority live in low- and middle-income countries.

It is estimated that by 2050, over 900 million people — or 1 in every 10 people — will have disabling hearing loss. Hearing loss which is not addressed poses an annual global cost of $750 billion. Overall, it is suggested that half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented through public health measures.

The standard for safe listening devices was developed under WHO’s “Make Listening Safe” initiative by experts from WHO and ITU over a two-year process, drawing on the latest evidence and consultations with a range of stakeholders, including experts from government, industry, consumers and civil society.

Among other things, the standard recommends:

Sound allowance” function: software that tracks the level and duration of the user’s exposure to sound as a percentage used of a reference exposure.

Personalised profile: an individualized listening profile, based on the user’s listening practices, which informs the user of how safely (or not) he or she has been listening and gives cues for action based on this information.

Volume limiting options: options to limit the volume, including automatic volume reduction and parental volume control.

General information: information and guidance to users on safe listening practices, both through personal audio devices and for other leisure activities.

The WHO has recommended that governments and manufacturers adopt the standard. It has also called on civil society organisations, particularly professional associations that promote hearing care, to play a role in advocating for the standard.

March 3 is World Hearing Day.

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