“Video gamers at risk of hearing loss”

Excelsior Correspondent
Video gamers worldwide might be at a higher risk of irreversible hearing loss or developing a persistent ringing, or tinnitus, in their ears, new research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Public Health has found.
Such gamers are known to often expose themselves to high-intensity sound levels and for several hours at a stretch, and researchers have found that the sound levels often near, or exceed, permissible safe limits, which for children is 75 decibels for 40 hours a week.
The international research team, including researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Medical University of South Carolina, US, reviewed 14 studies from 9 countries in North America, Europe, South East Asia, Asia and Australasia, that included more than 50,000 people in all.
The researchers said that “relatively little” attention has been paid to the effects of video games, including e-sports, on hearing loss, even as headphones, earbuds, and music venues have been acknowledged as sources of potentially unsafe sound levels.
“The findings suggest that there may be a need to prioritise interventions, such as initiatives focused on education and awareness of the potential risks of gaming, that can help promote safe listening among gamers,” they wrote.
One of the research papers the team analysed estimated that there were more than 3 billion gamers worldwide in 2022, and six papers reported that video gaming prevalence among young people ranged from 20 to 68 per cent, they said.
In their analysis, the researchers found that of the five studies that evaluated associations between gaming and self-reported hearing loss or tinnitus, two linked the use of school students’ gaming centre to more chances of severe tinnitus and high-frequency sound hearing loss in both ears.
Other studies in the overall analysis associated video gaming with higher odds of self-reported hearing loss severity and measured sound levels of five video games through headphones attached to the gaming console – these averaged at 88.5, 87.6, 85.6 and 91.2 decibels (dB) for 4 separate shooter games, and 85.6 dB for a racing game.
The authors concluded that the daily level of sound exposure from these video games is close to maximum permissible levels of sound exposure, according to the standards of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which, in collaboration with the WHO, has described a time-intensity trade-off, known as an exchange rate, for permissible levels and duration of exposure.
For children, the ITU has defined the permissible noise exposure level as 75 decibels for 40 hours a week with a 3-dB exchange rate, which meant that the permissible exposure time halves with every 3 dB increase in noise level.
The children can therefore safely listen to an 83-decibel sound for around 6.5 hours, 86 dB for around 3.25 hours, 92 dB for 45 minutes, and 98 dB for only 12 minutes a week, the researchers explained.
Acknowledging that the data provided in the review was limited, the researchers said that “some gamers, particularly those who play frequently, and at or above the average sound levels described by papers included in this review, probably exceed permissible sound exposure limits, and are thus engaging in unsafe listening practices, which could put them at risk for developing permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus.”