Video gamers worldwide may be risking permanent hearing loss or tinnitus, according to a global review of all the available evidence.

The analysis suggests that the sound levels reported in studies of more than 50,000 gamers often near, or exceed, permissible safe limits.

And given the popularity of video games globally, greater public health efforts are needed to raise awareness of the potential risks, researchers have urged.

Impulse noises

While headphones, earbuds, and music venues are recognised as sources of potentially unsafe sound levels, little attention has been paid to the potential risk of video games on hearing loss, the researchers from the University of South Carolina and the World Health Organization said.

A report in the Guardian newspaper said that gamers often play at high-intensity sound levels and for several hours at a time..

The review of 14 global studies involving more than 53,000 people also found that impulse noises – such as shooting sounds – can be very high, the researchers said.


The study, published in the journal BMJ Public Health, concluded that “gamers who are listening at high-intensity sound levels and for long periods may be at risk of permanent noise induced hearing loss and/or tinnitus.”

The researchers said guidelines showing the “permissible” time a person can be exposed to 83dB sound is 20 hours a week, while for 86dB it is 10 hours, for 92dB it is 2.5 hours and for 98dB it is 38 minutes. For children, permissible noise exposure levels are lower.

Franki Oliver, audiology manager at the hearing loss charity RNID, said: “There are two factors that increase the risk of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus – how loud the sound is, and how long you are exposed to it.

Safe limits

“If you use gaming headsets or headphones, it’s really important not to exceed safe volume limits on your device.”

The BBC has also covered this topic and you can read its report here.

Image by World Health Organisation.