Gaming and Hearing LossThere are many ways hearing can be affected and one of the most common causes of hearing loss can be traced back to long exposure to loud noises. There are the classic culprits of hearing loss—concerts, construction, music—but one cause may have slipped between the cracks. Video gamers are put at risk every time a new game is turned on—hours of playing with loud sound effects and headsets turned all the way up may be creating significant damage to the player’s hearing. But how do you know if you or a loved one is at risk? First let’s talk about the reason for hearing loss.


How Does the Damage Occur?

The ear is a complex structure made up of delicate parts that transform the vibrations of sound into information for the brain. But what damage actually occurs with lengthy exposure to loud sounds? Noise travels to the ear, the eardrum vibrates, which creates vibrations in the cochlea, and within the cochlea there are tiny hairs that pick up the vibrations and send the information to the brain to interpret. Those tiny hairs in your ears are incredibly imp ortant and are what get damaged from long exposure to loud sounds. Loud noise over a period of time wears down the tiny hairs in the cochlea—these hairs can repair themselves to a certain extent but if enough damage is done the hairs will not grow back. After several hours of playing video games the loud sound effects may have this effect on the hairs in your ears.


Am I At Risk?

Ear buds and headsets are creating dangerous risks for video gamers because the volume can be turned up to levels that the human ear cannot endure. More than ever we are all at risk of damaging our hearing, so it is important to consider how you are gaming and what volume you have your system at. An indicator that you might be at risk is how your ears respond after the game is turned off—if you experience muffled hearing or any buzzing in your ears you might be at risk for permanent damage. The general rule of thumb is that 85 decibels or higher will cause long lasting problems for hearing—this can be equated to busy city traffic or a train passing. At 85 decibels it takes approximately 8 hours to cause damage, but every 3 decibels over 85 cuts that time in half. So 88 decibels will cause damage after 4 hours, 91 decibels will cause damage after 2 hours, 94 decibels will damage hearing after 1 hour, etc. So if you are playing a video game for a few hours and your game is within the dangerous range, damage might be done without your knowledge. Even if you do not experience pain or discomfort from the game there might be subtle damage being done and this adds up if you consistently play video games.


Preventative Measures

So now that you know how hearing damage is caused and at what level permanent impairment occurs, what are some ways to actively protect your ears? One way to is to consistently listen to your speaker system or ear buds at a volume of 60 percent. Everybody’s ears are different and it is impossible to generalize exactly what volume and for what length of time will cause permanent damage, but 60 percent is a good rule of thumb for most people. If you have ear buds in and cannot hear any surrounding sounds your volume is too loud; generally it is best to be able to hear somebody talking to you within arm’s reach. The best way to protect your ears is to listen to your game at a reasonable level. While you are shooting the bad guys and killing zombies, do not let the game kill your ears. It seems like simple advice but your ears will thank you later.