Objective: The usage of personal listening devices (PLDs) is associated with risks of hearing loss. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effects of music exposure from these devices on high-frequency hearing thresholds of PLD users.
Materials and methods: A total of 282 young adults were questioned regarding their listening habits and symptoms associated with PLD listening. Their audiogram thresholds were determined at high (3-8 kHz) frequencies and extended high frequencies (EHFs, 9-16 kHz). The preferred listening volumes of PLD users were used to compute their overall 8-h equivalent music exposure levels (LAeq8h).
Results: Approximately 80% of the subjects were regular PLD users. Of these, 20.1% had LAeq8h of ≥75 dBA, while 4.4% of them had LAeq8h of ≥85 dBA, which carries a high risk of hearing damage. Compared with those exposed to LAeq8h of <75 dBA, subjects who had LAeq8h of ≥75 dBA reported a significantly higher incidence of tinnitus and difficulty in hearing others immediately after using PLDs. PLD users who were exposed to LAeq8h of ≥75 dBA and had been using their devices for ≥4 years also showed significantly higher mean audiogram thresholds compared with non-users at most EHFs tested. In addition, the thresholds of PLD users at EHFs showed a weak but significant positive correlation with their LAeq8h.
Conclusion: The present findings suggest that excessive exposure to music among PLD users may lead to initial effects on their hearing at very high frequencies.