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Video gamers risk permanent hearing damage – global review

Given the popularity of video gaming, particularly among children and teenagers, more needs to be done to raise awareness of the risks, says a panel of experts who reviewed 15 global studies, involving more than 50 000 people, and found that sound levels are often near, or exceed, safe limits.

People also tend to game for long periods, while impulse noises – such as shooting sounds – can be very high, they said.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Public Health, found that “gamers listening at high-intensity sound levels and for long periods may be at risk of permanent sound-induced hearing loss and/or tinnitus”, reports The Independent.

The authors said that their findings suggest a need to” prioritise interventions”, like initiatives focused on education and awareness of the potential risks of gaming, that can help promote safe listening among gamers.

The team, including experts from the University of South Carolina and the World Health Organisation, pointed to guidelines showing that the “permissible” time a person can be exposed to 83dB sound is 20 hours, while for 86dB it is 10 hours, for 92dB it is 2.5 hours and for 98dB it is 38 minutes per week.

For children, permissible noise exposure levels are lower: 75dB for 40 hours a week.

Under this definition, children can safely listen to sound at an 83dB sound for 6.5 hours, an 86dB sound for approximately 3.25 hours, a 92dB sound for 45 minutes, and a 98dB sound for just 12 minutes per week, the team said.

However, the study found that, on average, levels are often near this or higher, and warned that shooting sounds and other high sounds are not necessarily captured by average sound intensity levels.

The researchers called for further work in the area.

“The limited available evidence suggests that gaming may be a common source of unsafe listening, which could place many individuals worldwide at risk of permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

“Additional research on these relationships is needed along with steps to promote safe listening among gamers.”

Study details

Risk of sound-induced hearing loss from exposure to video gaming or esports: a systematic scoping review

Lauren Dillard, Peter Mulas, Shelly Chadha, et al.

Published in BMJ Public Health in January 2024

Abstract

Background
There is little information on whether video gaming might be a modifiable risk factor for hearing loss and/or tinnitus, despite the plausibility of these relationships given that video games are often played at high-intensity sound levels and for long periods of time.

Objective
To synthesise current evidence related to relationships between gaming and the potential risk of hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

Design
Systematic scoping review

Data sources
We searched three databases (PubMed, Scopus, Ovid MEDLINE) in January 2023 for peer-reviewed articles, and searched grey literature sources, from inception to 2023.

Eligibility criteria
Observational, mixed-methods, trials, or case studies published in (or that could be translated into) English, Spanish or Chinese were eligible for inclusion. Studies were included if they evaluated relationships of gaming with hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

Data extraction and synthesis
Two reviewers extracted and verified study data, which are synthesised in tables and in the text.

Results
Fourteen peer-reviewed studies were included, 11 of which were cohort studies and 3 of which were non-cohort observational studies. Across studies, the prevalence of gaming ranged from 20% to 78%. In general, the average measured sound levels of video games nearly exceeded, or exceeded, permissible sound exposure limits, and on average, individuals played video games for approximately 3 hours per week. Among the five peer-reviewed studies that evaluated associations or correlations of gaming with hearing loss or tinnitus, four reported significant associations or correlations with gaming and hearing loss or tinnitus.

Conclusions
The limited available evidence suggests that gaming may be a common source of unsafe listening, which could place many individuals worldwide at risk of permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus. Additional research on these relationships is needed along with steps to promote safe listening among gamers.

 

BMJ Public Health Article – Risk of sound-induced hearing loss from exposure to video gaming or esports: a systematic scoping review (Creative Commons Licence)

 

The Independent article – Video gamers risk irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus – study (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Half of the world’s young people at risk for hearing loss: global meta-analysis

 

UK takes action on ‘addictive’ computer games and technologies

 

Loud music puts teens at risk of hearing loss

 

Earplugs the only way to stop ear damage among musicians

 

 

 

 

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