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Health Department Launches Ad Campaign Warning of the Dangers of Listening To Loud Headphones

Prolonged exposure to loud sound can cause irreversible hearing damage.

December 3, 2013 – The Health Department launched a new ad campaign today warning people that listening to headphones at high volume can cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and irreversible hearing loss. The ads encourage people to protect their hearing by turning down the volume when using headphones. The ads will run in subway cars, on the internet and on radio.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a significant issue and can be prevented. “Listening to headphones at high volume for too long can damage your hearing” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “If you want to continue to enjoy music in the future, you’ll turn down the volume today.”

Loud sounds, including media played at high volume, can injure the delicate hair-like cells of the inner ear that convert sound waves into the sounds we hear. The injured cells cannot be repaired, and once enough of them are damaged, hearing problems can occur.

Younger adults who frequently use headphones at high volume report more hearing problems than those who use them less frequently and/or at lower volume. Nearly one out of four adults aged 18 to 44 who report heavy headphone use say they have hearing problems, and were more than twice as likely to report hearing problems than those who report light-to-moderate use or no use of headphones.

Hearing loss is preventable. To protect your hearing when using headphones:

  • Reduce the volume, limit listening time, and take regular breaks.
  • Never listen at maximum volume and do not turn the volume up to drown out external noise.
  • Use volume limiting features of personal listening devices.
  • Know the early signs of hearing loss and ask a doctor for a hearing test if you have trouble hearing conversation, need to turn up the volumes on TV, radio or personal music players or experience ringing in the ear.

The campaign is funded in part by FJC: A Foundation for Philanthropic Funds and the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

“One in eight children and teens has permanent noise-induced hearing loss. It separates them from their friends, family and the world around them, hindering their performance from the classroom to the workplace,” said Starkey Hearing Foundation Senior Executive Director Steven Sawalich. “Starkey Hearing Foundation’s Listen Carefully campaign aims to reverse this alarming trend, and we are proud to partner with the City of New York to raise awareness for this important issue.”

For more information, read the Health Department’s report Hearing Problems and Headphone Use in New York City, or search “Preventing Hearing Loss” at nyc.gov.