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Year : 1999  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 1--2

Tinnitus : A warning signal to teenagers attending discotheques?

Alf Axelsson1, Deepak Prasher2,  
1 Lindholmen Development Hearing Research Laboratory, P.O.Box 8714, S-402 75 Goteborg, Sweden
2 Institute of Laryngology and Otology, University College London, 330 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8EE, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Deepak Prasher
Institute of Laryngology and Otology, University College London, 330 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8EE
United Kingdom

How to cite this article:
Axelsson A, Prasher D. Tinnitus : A warning signal to teenagers attending discotheques?.Noise Health 1999;1:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Axelsson A, Prasher D. Tinnitus : A warning signal to teenagers attending discotheques?. Noise Health [serial online] 1999 [cited 2023 Mar 26 ];1:1-2
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Modern music is the foremost interest of young people today as it has been for over 20 years and the interest seems to be increasing more and more. This would all be fine but over the years many authorities, parents and others have expressed their worries about the high sound levels. It has been quite common during the last few years for people to express their fear that " we will leave a deaf generation behind". Such a statement is extremely exaggerated and many investigators have not been able to demonstrate a significant hearing loss in the exposed populations, whether they have been exposed to rock concerts, disco music or amplified music from portable cassette players (Axelsson et al 1981; Hellstrom and Axelsson, 1988; Hetu and Fortin, 1995). There are only a few investigations of the hearing ability in young populations and these do not show any increase in the incidence of hearing loss today compared to earlier studies (Davis et al 1998).

Calculations of the risk of hearing loss in relation to sound levels and estimated exposure time, no doubt indicate an increased risk of hearing loss based on international standards (Ising et al 1997). However, if there were some differences in the musical exposure habits in different countries, we feel that an average or "normal" exposure of 2-3 rock concerts a year, a disco visit each week and one or two hours of listening to the portable cassette player at "loud" levels still do not imply a large risk of acquiring a hearing loss. Furthermore, the interest in listening to this type of music is mostly limited in time to five or at the most ten years, for example during 15-25 years of age.

However, there is reason to draw attention to other symptoms such as tinnitus and hyperacusis, which seem to increase in young people. More and more teenagers and young adults report these symptoms and complain of difficulty in understanding speech in noisy conditions to their physicians in ENT and Audiology clinics. As far as is known there has been no systematic investigation in the prevalence of these symptoms in the young population. Considering the very large number of young people who are exposed, the risk of acquiring these symptoms is comparatively small. The impact on those affected is clearly much higher than a slight high tone loss after exposure to music. Typically, the young individuals affected by tinnitus and/or hyperacusis "suffer" much more by their symptoms than from a slight hearing loss.

So there is reason to raise concern to lower the sound levels, not only at rock concerts, discos, and from the "walkman" devices but also from other sources such as Gyms, games arcades and bars and clubs which have raised the sound levels implying a greater risk for tinnitus and hyperacusis. There is also a need to create a greater awareness of these effects after exposure to amplified music, particularly in the young as there is very little information available for these people. The seriousness of the situation is not appreciated by the people concerned nor the fact that if hearing is damaged it is irretrievable. In terms of being able to change the attitudes in young people to loud sound levels it might be possible that they would consider the risk of tinnitus and abnormal sound sensitivity as stronger arguments for decreasing sound levels or decreasing the frequency of attendance rather than the perceived remote possibility of the loss of hearing at a much later date. This remote possibility of loss of hearing is also viewed as an inevitable outcome rather than an avoidable one.

Clearly, much awareness campaigning needs to be done and the very real possibility of acquiring tinnitus as a result of music exposure may bring the seriousness of the consequences home to those concerned. It may also be valuable to have these possibilities spelled out as a warning on the entrance tickets to rock concerts and discotheques.[4]


1Axelsson A, Jerson T, Lindgren F (1981) Noisy leisure time activities in teenage boys. Am. Indust. Hygiene Assoc. J. 42, 229-233.
2Davis AC, Lovell EA, Smith PA and Ferguson MA (1998) The contribution of social noise to tinnitus in young people - a preliminary report. Noise and Health 1, 40-46
3Hellstrom PA, Axelsson A (1988) Sound levels, hearing habits and hazards of using portable cassette players. J. Sound and Vibration 127, 521-528.
4Hetu R and Fortin M (1995) Potential risk of hearing damage associated with exposure to highly amplified music. J. Am. Acad. Audiol. 6, 378-386.