The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) announced that it has been accepted as a member of the new World Hearing Forum, a global network of stakeholders established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote ear and hearing care worldwide.
A major Forum task will be facilitating the implementation of WHO resolution WHA70.13 on “Prevention of deafness and hearing loss” and supporting member states in that regard.
“We thank WHO for accepting ASHA as a Forum member and, as such, we look forward to being active and collaborative,” ASHA President Shari Robertson, PhD, said. “Ample challenges to hearing health exist worldwide that warrant attention and action. It is exciting and encouraging to think they stand to be met by Forum members’ collective commitment and expertise.”
According to WHO, approximately 466 million people globally live with disabling hearing loss, 34 million of whom are children. The health agency also says 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings and the use of personal audio devices—a number that is expected to grow considerably “unless action is taken to prevent and treat hearing loss” in WHO’s estimation.
Before becoming a Forum member, ASHA advised WHO on its Make Listening Safe campaign which, in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)—a United Nations agency that facilitates international connectivity in communications networks—unveiled the “first-ever global standard” for safe listening to personal audio devices.
Known as the WHO-ITU Global Standard for safe listening devices and systems, it recommends 80 decibels as the maximum safe level for adults using a personal audio device for 40 hours weekly, and 75 decibels as the safe maximum for children for the same amount of usage time. The standard stems from several years of research, input, and discussion by a cross section of stakeholders from around the world.
Since the 1970s, hearing experts in the United States have cited 85 decibels as the maximum safe listening level, a limit that originated from what was considered safe for workers in occupational settings.
“ASHA recommends adhering to the new WHO-ITU safe listening standard when it comes to personal audio device use,” Robertson said. “Among other things, it was developed with the use of such a device in mind instead of the experience of exposure to noise in an occupational setting.”
The World Hearing Forum opening Membership Assembly will be held December 4–5, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.