Video gamers may suffer irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus: Study

January 17, 2024
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Video gamers worldwide may be at risk of developing an irreversible hearing loss and/or tinnitus persistent ringing/buzzing in the ears, according to a study.

London, Jan 17(IANS) Video gamers worldwide may be at risk of developing an irreversible hearing loss and/or tinnitus persistent ringing/buzzing in the ears, according to a study.

While headphones, earbuds, and music venues have been recognised as sources of potentially unsafe sound levels, relatively little attention has been paid to the effects of video games, including e-sports, on hearing loss, said the researchers, which include experts from the World Health Organisation and the University of South Carolina.

“The daily level of sound exposure from the video games is close to maximum permissible levels of sound exposure,” they found.

Given the popularity of these games, greater public health efforts are needed to raise awareness of the potential risks, the team said, noting that gamers often play at high-intensity sound levels and for several hours at a time.

The study, published in the open access journal BMJ Public Health, is based on a systematic review of some 14 peer reviewed studies from nine countries in North America, Europe, South East Asia, Asia and Australasia, and involved 53,833 people.

Six studies reported on video gaming prevalence among young people, which ranged from 20 per cent to 68 per cent. Two South Korean studies reported a prevalence of gaming centre use at around 60 per cent.

Five studies evaluated associations between gaming and self-reported hearing loss, hearing thresholds, or tinnitus.

Of these, two found that school pupils’ gaming centre use was linked to increased odds of severe tinnitus and high-frequency sound hearing loss in both ears.

Another large observational study reported that video gaming was associated with increased odds of self-reported hearing loss severity.

One study reported that over 10 million people in the US may be exposed to ‘loud’ or ‘very loud’ sound levels from video or computer games.

One study measured sound levels of 5 video games through headphones attached to the gaming console, and found that these averaged 88.5, 87.6, 85.6 and 91.2 dB for 4 separate shooter games, and 85.6 dB for a racing game.

An additional 16 peer-reviewed articles and 14 grey literature sources mention gaming as a potential source of excessive sound exposure.

The researchers concluded that gaming headphones can reach unsafe listening levels, “which could place some gamers at risk of sound-induced hearing loss.”

“Although the data provided in this review are limited, some gamers, particularly those who play frequently, and at or above the average sound levels, 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,” the researchers said.

“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 suggested.

–IANS

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