Video gaming is one of the fastest-growing spaces in the entertainment business. However, its increasing popularity has also raised concerns about its impact on people's physical and mental health. Now, new research has found a risk of irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus among video gamers due to high sound levels.
The comprehensive review paper, published in the journal BMJ Public Health, involving more than 50,000 people, found that sound levels in gaming often near or exceed safe limits. Sound levels from gaming reach up to 80-89 decibels (dB) in gaming centres and impulse sounds, bursts lasting less than one second, during gameplay touch as high as 119 dB. These exceed safe exposure limits, a press statement explained.
According to Neuroscience News, video games’ popularity has continued to rise in recent years, with over 3 billion gamers in 2022. The paper indicates that video gamers could be risking irreversible hearing loss or tinnitus, which refers to persistent ringing/buzzing in the ears.
A previous study, published in BMJ Public Health, in November 2022 had warned that more than one billion teens and young people are at risk of hearing loss because of their use of headphones and earbuds and attendance at loud music venues. However, comparatively little attention has been given to the effects of video games, including e-sports, on hearing loss, the researchers said in the statement.
Video gamers often play at high-intensity sound levels and for several hours at a time, the researchers highlight. For example, sound levels from mobile devices were found to be around 43.2 dB, whereas those in gaming centres were almost double.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in collaboration with the World Health Organization, describes a time-intensity trade-off, also known as an exchange rate, for permissible levels and duration of exposure, the researchers explained in the statement.
For example, a permissible noise exposure level of 80 dB for 40 hours a week with a 3 dB exchange rate means the permissible exposure time halves with every 3 dB increase in noise level, the statement explains. For children, the permissible noise exposure level is defined as 75 dB for 40 hours a week.
“The findings suggest that there may be a need to prioritise interventions, such as initiatives focused on education and awareness of the potential risks of gaming, that can help promote safe listening among gamers,” the researchers suggest in the statement.