Introduction: This study aimed to determine the prevalence of unsafe listening practices from exposure to personal listening devices (PLDs) and loud entertainment venues in individuals aged 12-34 years, and to estimate the number of young people who could be at risk of hearing loss from unsafe listening worldwide.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate the prevalence of unsafe listening practices from PLDs and loud entertainment venues. We searched three databases for peer-reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2021 that reported unsafe listening practices in individuals aged 12-34 years. Pooled prevalence estimates (95% CI) of exposed populations were calculated using random effects models or ascertained from the systematic review. The number of young people who could be at risk of hearing loss worldwide was estimated from the estimated global population aged 12-34 years, and best estimates of exposure to unsafe listening ascertained from this review.
Results: Thirty-three studies (corresponding to data from 35 records and 19 046 individuals) were included; 17 and 18 records focused on PLD use and loud entertainment venues, respectively. The pooled prevalence estimate of exposure to unsafe listening from PLDs was 23.81% (95% CI 18.99% to 29.42%). There was limited certainty (p>0.50) in our pooled prevalence estimate for loud entertainment venues. Thus, we fitted a model as a function of intensity thresholds and exposure duration to identify the prevalence estimate as 48.20%. The global estimated number of young people who could be at risk of hearing loss from exposure to unsafe listening practices ranged from 0.67 to 1.35 billion.
Conclusions: Unsafe listening practices are highly prevalent worldwide and may place over 1 billion young people at risk of hearing loss. There is an urgent need to prioritise policy focused on safe listening. The World Health Organization provides comprehensive materials to aid in policy development and implementation.
Keywords: ENT diseases; Health policy; Prevention strategies; Public Health; Systematic review.
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