Out for a Good Time? Don’t Forget Your Earplugs
Recent research has provided further evidence to support what most clinicians and scientists have believed for some time now:
Using earplugs may help prevent hearing damage from concerts.1
A warning from the World Health Organization
WHO in February 2015 issued a warning and recommendations to preserve the hearing of young people exposed to personal audio devices like smartphones and to damaging sound levels at concerts, nightclubs and bars. Their recommendations:
- Lower the volume on personal audio devices
- Use those devices less than an hour a day
- Take short breaks from listening
- Use earplugs at noisy venues2
Taking their cue from this and other warnings, in mid-2015 a group of Dutch researchers screened 228 articles for information on the possible hearing protection provided by wearing earplugs at music performances. They felt few of these studies were thoroughly randomized and of sufficient scope and rigor to provide solid results.3 Accordingly, the group determined to research the subject themselves.
Music festival provides a clinical trial
The researchers conducted a randomized trial at an outdoor music festival in Amsterdam. Fifty normal-hearing adults were randomly assigned to a group using earplugs or to a second group whose ears were unprotected. The participants attended the festival for 4½ hours and had their hearing tested before and after the visit.
“Roughly 8% of the earplug users had a temporary threshold shift on audiogram, indicating hearing loss, compared with 42% in the unprotected group. . . . After the festival, reported rates of new tinnitus were higher in the unprotected group (40% vs. 12%).”1
The researchers concluded that earplug use “should be actively promoted and encouraged” to help prevent hearing loss caused by exposure to noise. They further suggested that “physicians should promote awareness on the risks of recreational noise” to their patients who may be at risk of future hearing loss.3
1 NEJM Journal Watch/Physician’s First Watch. Earplugs May Help Prevent Hearing Damage from Concerts. www.jwatch.org/fw111413/2016/04/08.
2 World Health Organization. 1.1 Billion People at Risk of Hearing Loss: WHO Highlights Serious Threat Posed by Exposure to Recreational Noise. www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/ear-care/en.
3 JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Effect of Earplugs in Preventing Hearing Loss from Recreational Noise Exposure: A Systematic Review. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2015.3667.
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. The Effectiveness of Earplugs in Preventing Recreational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: A Randomized Clinical Trial. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.0225.
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