Study warns gamers: Prolonged high volume exposes hearing risk

A recent study has identified a potential risk to the hearing of individuals engaged in video gaming, emphasizing the peril of exposing oneself to unsafe sound levels. The scientific paper, featured in BMJ Public Health and based on 14 studies encompassing over 50,000 participants, underscores that gamers frequently play for extended periods with elevated volume settings, surpassing recommended safety thresholds. Prolonged exposure to such high volumes, the study suggests, may lead to irreversible hearing impairment or the development of tinnitus—a persistent ringing in the ears.

The research advocates for increased public health initiatives to heighten awareness among gamers, akin to campaigns conducted for live music and headphone use. While the straightforward solution of reducing volume exists, the study contends that the issue lies in the prolonged duration of exposure to elevated sound levels. Notably, the World Health Organization prescribes safe weekly exposure limits, with adults recommended to stay within 80 decibels (dB) for 40 hours weekly, while exceeding 85dB for four hours or 90dB for one hour and 15 minutes poses escalating risks.

Studies examined by researchers unveiled headphone noise levels in popular shooting games ranging from 88.5 to 91.2dB, with impulse sounds, such as gunshots, peaking at 119dB. Additionally, gender disparities emerged, indicating that boys played games more frequently, for longer durations, and at higher volumes than girls.

While acknowledging the need for further research, the authors underscore the potential impact of factors like e-sports, geography, gender, and age on gaming-related hearing risks. Despite limited recent data, the authors assert that gaming appears to be a common source of unsafe listening, urging interventions such as educational initiatives to promote safe listening practices among gamers. The gaming industry body, Ukie, encourages headphone use within safe levels but refrained from commenting extensively on the study.