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Turn down the volume: WHO takes aim at harmful smartphone use, saying over 1 billion people at risk

AFP-JIJI


An attendee uses a smartphone to record a video of U.S. President Donald Trump speaking during a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. | BLOOMBERG

GENEVA – More than 1 billion young people risk damaging their hearing through excessive use of smartphones and other audio devices, the U.N. warned Tuesday, proposing new safety standards for safe volume levels.

In a bid to safeguard hearing, the World Health Organization and International Telecommunications Union issued a non-binding international standard for the manufacture and use of audio devices.

Young people are particularly prone to risky listening habits.

Around half of those between the ages of 12 and 35, or 1.1 billion people, are at risk due to “prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices,” the UN health agency said.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out that the world already has “the technological know-how to prevent hearing loss.”

“It should not be the case that so many young people continue to damage their hearing while listening to music,” he said in the statement.

Young people, he said, “must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won’t come back.”

Currently, about 5 percent of the global population, or some 466 million people, including 34 million children, suffer from disabling hearing loss.

WHO said it remained unclear how many of them had damaged their hearing through dangerous use of audio devices.

It insisted though that the new standard developed with ITU would go a long way to “safeguard these young consumers as they go about doing something they enjoy.”

WHO considers a volume above 85 decibels for eight hours or 100 decibels for 15 minutes as unsafe.

The Safe listening devices and systems standard calls for a “sound allowance” software to be included in all audio devices, to track the volume level and duration of a user’s exposure to sound, and to evaluate the risk posed to their hearing.

This system could alert a user if they have dangerous listening habits.

WHO is also calling for parental as well as automatic volume controls on audio devices to prevent dangerous use.

While some smartphones and other audio devices already offer some of these features, the U.N. would like to see a uniform standard used to help protect against disabling hearing loss.

“Think of it like driving on a highway, but without a speedometer in your car or a speed limit,” Shelly Chadha of the WHO told reporters in Geneva.

“What we’ve proposed is that your smartphones come fitted with a speedometer, with a measurement system which tells you how much sound you’re getting and tells you if you are going over the limit.”

Source: Turn down the volume: WHO takes aim at harmful smartphone use, saying over 1 billion people at risk

Smartphone users ‘risking health’ with overuse of devices

Using smartphone
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy warns of office workers becoming “screen slaves”.
People are risking their health by working on smartphones, tablets and laptops after they have left the office, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

It says people have become “screen slaves” and are often working while commuting or after they get home.

The society said poor posture in these environments could lead to back and neck pain.

Unions said people needed to learn to switch off their devices.

An online survey, of 2,010 office workers by the Society found that nearly two-thirds of those questioned continued working outside office hours.

The organisation said people were topping up their working day with more than two hours of extra screentime, on average, every day.

The data suggested that having too much work and easing pressure during the day were the two main reasons for the extra workload.

‘Posture’

Individuals who find themselves unable to leave their work in the office should talk to their managers and learn to switch off their smartphones”

Brendan Barber Trades Union Congress

The chairwoman of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Dr Helena Johnson, said the findings were of “huge concern”.

She said: “While doing a bit of extra work at home may seem like a good short-term fix, if it becomes a regular part of your evening routine then it can lead to problems such as back and neck pain, as well as stress-related illness.

“This is especially the case if you’re using hand-held devices and not thinking about your posture. Talk to your employer if you are feeling under pressure.”

The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Brendan Barber, said: “Excessive work levels are not good for anyone. Overworked employees are not only unlikely to be performing well at work, the stress an unmanageable workload causes is also likely to be making them ill.

“By the time someone is so overloaded they constantly feel the need to put in extra hours every night of the week at home, things have clearly got out of hand.

“Individuals who find themselves unable to leave their work in the office should talk to their managers and learn to switch off their smartphones.”

BBC

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