Researchers note the need to consider permissible noise levels and exposure duration to determine safe listening practices.
Recent research findings suggest that video gamers worldwide may be jeopardising their hearing, exposing themselves to irreversible hearing loss, and persistent tinnitus. Researchers analysed data from studies involving over 50,000 individuals and found that reported sound levels often approach or surpass permissible safe limits. This underscores the urgent need for public health efforts to raise awareness about potential risks associated with the widespread popularity of video games.
Despite acknowledging headphones, earbuds, and music venues as known sources of potentially unsafe sound levels, the study, published in BMJ Public Health, highlights a relative lack of attention to the auditory impacts of video games, including e-sports. Gamers are noted for frequently engaging in high-intensity sound levels for extended periods. The global gaming population exceeded three billion in 2022.
Notably, impulse sounds, characterised by bursts lasting less than one second with peak levels at least 15 dB higher than background sound, were reported to reach levels as high as 119 dB during gameplay. Permissible exposure limits are approximately 100 dB for children and 130–140 dB for adults. Researchers note the need to consider both permissible noise levels and exposure duration to determine safe listening practices.
The systematic review also revealed gender differences in gaming behaviours, indicating that boys played video games more frequently, for longer durations, and at higher sound intensity levels than girls. They have concluded that frequent gamers may exceed permissible sound exposure limits. This engagement in unsafe listening practices could put them at risk for permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
As gaming continues to captivate audiences worldwide, safeguarding the auditory health of players becomes not just a priority, but an imperative mission in the ever-evolving landscape of digital entertainment. Education, awareness initiatives, and further research are crucial elements in ensuring the well-being of gamers as they embark on their virtual adventures.