Video gaming is a popular and enjoyable activity for many people around the world. However, it may also pose a serious threat to your hearing health, according to a new study published in the BMJ Public Health journal. The study found that video gamers are often exposed to sound levels that exceed safe limits, which can lead to irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus, a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears.
The study was a systematic review of 14 peer-reviewed studies from nine countries, involving a total of 53,833 people. The researchers analyzed the associations between hearing and computer or video games, as well as the sound levels in gaming centers, personal computer rooms, and mobile devices.
The results showed that video gaming sound levels often approached or exceeded the permissible sound exposure limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies. For example, the sound levels in gaming centers and personal computer rooms ranged from 80 to 89 decibels, which is comparable to the noise of a busy street or a lawn mower. Impulse sounds, such as gunshots or explosions, in games could reach up to 119 decibels, which is far above the safe limit of 85 decibels for children and 90 decibels for adults.
The researchers also found that video gamers played for long periods of time, sometimes for several hours a day, which increased the risk of hearing damage. The study estimated that more than 3 billion gamers worldwide in 2022 were potentially at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus due to unsafe listening habits.
The Consequences of Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Hearing loss and tinnitus are not only annoying and uncomfortable, but also have serious implications for the quality of life and well-being of the affected individuals. Hearing loss can impair communication, social interaction, education, and employment opportunities. Tinnitus can cause distress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and concentration difficulties.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Lauren Dillard, an audiologist and epidemiologist, explained how exposure to loud sounds can affect hearing. “This can result in temporary hearing loss or ringing in the ears,” she said. “While these sensations may resolve in a few days as the sensory cells recover, regular or prolonged exposure to noise can build up and result in permanent hearing loss over time.”
The study also highlighted the lack of awareness and education about the auditory risks associated with gaming among the general public and the gaming industry. The researchers called for more public health efforts to promote safe listening practices among gamers, such as lowering the volume, limiting the duration, and using noise-canceling headphones.
How to Protect Your Hearing While Gaming
If you are a video gamer, or know someone who is, here are some tips to protect your hearing while enjoying your favorite games:
- Check the sound level of your game and device, and adjust it to the lowest comfortable level. You can use a sound level meter app to measure the decibels.
- Limit your gaming time to no more than one hour per day, and take regular breaks of at least 10 minutes every hour. This will give your ears a chance to rest and recover.
- Use noise-canceling headphones or earbuds, which can block out the background noise and allow you to hear the game sounds clearly at a lower volume. Avoid using speakers, which can amplify the sound and disturb others.
- If you experience any signs of hearing loss or tinnitus, such as difficulty hearing, muffled sounds, or ringing in the ears, stop playing immediately and consult a doctor or an audiologist. Early detection and treatment can prevent further damage and improve your hearing health.
Video gaming can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but it can also harm your hearing if you are not careful. By following these simple steps, you can enjoy your games without compromising your hearing health.