Playing video games appears to significantly increase the risk of irreversible hearing loss and the risk of tinnitus. This is particularly concerning as more and more people play video games.
A recent study, which also involved experts from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), evaluated the existing evidence on the connections between video games and the risk of hearing loss and/or tinnitus. The results are published in the English-language journal “BMJ Public Health”.
Where does the analyzed data come from?
The team searched the three databases PubMed, Scopus and Ovid MEDLINE for studies that examined the association between video gaming and hearing loss and/or tinnitus. A total of fourteen studies were identified (eleven cohort studies and three observational studies without a cohort), which were ultimately included in the current research.
Video games are often very loud
When evaluating the results of these studies, it was shown that the participants spent an average of three hours per week playing video games and that the average measured volume levels of video games either just reached or even significantly exceeded the permissible limits for noise exposure.
It is known that so-called gamers often play for several hours at a time, with the sound level often being increased, the experts add.
Link between video games, hearing loss and tinnitus
Of the five studies that specifically looked at the connection between video games and hearing loss or tinnitus, four studies showed a significant connection between video games and hearing loss or tinnitus, the team reports.
Two of the studies showed a link between visiting arcades, which are particularly popular in Asia, and severe tinnitus and high-frequency hearing loss in both ears. Another observational study showed that video game use is associated with an increased likelihood of self-reported severe hearing loss.
According to the researchers, a study also provides evidence that more than ten million people in the USA alone play video and computer games at loud to very loud sound levels.
Boys play more often and at high volumes
Gender differences in gaming behavior examined in three studies found that boys generally play video games more often than girls. Boys also played longer and at higher volumes.
Video games bad for hearing
In summary, the results of the studies analyzed suggest that video games are a common cause of hearing problems, putting many people worldwide at increased risk of permanent hearing loss and tinnitus, according to the research team.
Typical sources of high noise levels
It has long been known that, for example, going to nightclubs and wearing headphones and earplugs are sources of potentially dangerous sound levels. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the effects of video games on hearing, the researchers add.
More and more people are playing video games
This is particularly worrying as the popularity of video games has increased dramatically in recent years. It is estimated that more than three billion people will have played video games in 2022, the experts report in a press release.
Inform the public about dangers
For this reason, experts say, there is an urgent need for public health efforts to increase awareness of the potential risks of video games to ear health.
The team adds that further research is needed on the connection between video games and hearing loss and tinnitus. The same applies to measures to protect against hearing damage caused by video games. (as)