The leisure-noise dilemma: hearing loss or hearsay? What does the literature tell us?

Ear Hear. 2014 Sep-Oct;35(5):491-505. doi: 10.1097/01.aud.0000451498.92871.20.


The authors undertook a review of the literature, focussing on publications describing the following: (1) Pure tone threshold data for adolescents/young adults; (2) Measurements/estimates of noise exposure from leisure activities; and (3) The relationship between hearing threshold levels (HTLs) and leisure-noise exposure. There is a large volume of published materials relevant to these topics, and opinion among authors regarding the relationship between leisure-noise exposure and HTLs varies significantly. At one extreme is the view that the effects of leisure-noise are minimal. The opposing belief is that as a direct result of leisure-noise exposure, significant HTL shifts and possibly significant hearing disability are occurring in a large (and increasing) proportion of young people. It has been claimed that behaviors relating to leisure-noise are "as threatening to young people's health as more traditional risk behaviors" (, p. 55). This view has been reiterated by the popular media. This review revealed that while sufficient data confirm that some leisure pursuits provide potentially hazardous noise levels, the nature of the exposure-injury relationship for leisure-noise is yet to be determined. Specific information about the quality-of-life effects of threshold shift related to leisure-noise exposure is also lacking. The scope and limitations of a large sample of relevant publications and an overview of the methodological issues in this area of research are briefly presented. Considerations for future research are raised.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Noise*
  • Young Adult