Did you know a recent study shows that 1 in 5 kids, 12 to 19 years old, are suffering from some degree of hearing loss. This number is up a staggering 31% from the over the last 20 to 25 years. Wow.

The use of personal audio technology is the reason for the dramatic increase. There are about 2 billion smartphone users in the world and that number is expected to grow to 2.6 billion, or one-third of the world’s population, by 2018. China currently has 500 million smartphone users. India is approaching 200 million users and is getting ready to pass the US in total smartphone users. I guess you can say that smartphones with their vast capabilities to play music, videos, movies and streaming content loudly are just about everywhere there are ears.

The risk of noise induced hearing loss from personal audio technology is a worldwide problem and the World Health Organization (WHO) is leading a global initiative to build awareness. They hope to inform the public and influence lawmakers with an initiative called Make Listening Safe. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) recognizes the critical nature of this issue too, so they created an award-winning, public education campaign called Listen To Your Buds. This program hopes to prevent noise induced hearing loss by teaching children the proper use of personal audio devices. WHO loved the ASHA campaign so much that they using it as a tool to support their initiative. This video highlights the program.

Here are the actions WHO wants you to take:

  • Keep the volume down.
    • Determine safe volume levels for your audio device.
    • Wear carefully fitted earplugs in extremely noisy venues.
  • Limit time in noisy situations.
    • When in noisy places, take short breaks from the noise.
    • Limit the daily use of personal audio devices to 1 hour per day.
  • Pay attention to the warning signs.
    • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
    • Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds or understanding conversations on a phone or in noisy venues.
  • Get a hearing check up regularly.
  • Monitor safe listening levels with smartphone apps like this one that you can download with a click of the link.

Here are the actions WHO wants society and legislators to take:

  • Teachers and physicians need to educate children and teens about safe listening.
  • Parents need to educate their children about safe listening and ensure that their kids are making good decisions regarding the volume of personal audio devices.
  • Managers of entertainment venues should set safe noise levels with the use of sound limiters, offer earplugs and provide break rooms.
  • Manufacturers of personal listening devices should add safety features and display safety information on the products and packaging.
  • Governments should develop and enforce strict legislation on recreational noise and fund PR campaigns.

The Kidmunication Point

The world has taught children to wear seat belts, to never text and drive, to recycle trash and to avoid cigarettes, so children can learn audio listening safety too. To create a movement, the campaign will need make audio listening safety the cool and smart thing to do with a message that is entertaining, compelling and ubiquitous. Listen To Your Buds is certainly entertaining and compelling, you can hear that from the reaction of the kids in the audience. The big question; does the campaign have the funding to change enough hearts and influence enough minds to start a movement? Seat belt use and texting while driving is enforced by police and has lots of advertising. Recycling trash is part of the richly funded environmental lobby. The anti-smoking campaign is funded by a huge tax on cigarettes and mandates on states to spend that money on building awareness of the perils of smoking. Hearing loss is not a life or death issue and many people already intuitively know the issue but ignore it anyway, so will this campaign get the funding it needs to create a movement? I guess time will tell.

One final and important point. Once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back.