According to the Q1 2016 GameTrack report, 18.8 million people between the ages of 6 and 64 game and those between 11 and 64 spend an average 8.8 hours per week doing so.
Amongst Gamers the largest group is 15 to 24-year-old males who are most at risk of permanently damaging their hearing. This group spends the most amount of time gaming and are also the most attracted to the “loud” games. Furthermore, many of them live in a shared accommodation and use headphones so as not to disturb others. This group also the most likely to take part in other activities which can be harmful to their hearing such as listening to music through headphones, going to gigs and festivals, and nightclubs.
Unfortunately, the price of their enjoyment could well be significant and permanent hearing damage. Whilst there is clearly a risk to the Gamer, it could transfer as a liability to the games companies in the form of legal action relating to their duty of care.
The first significant step is to make Gamers aware of how much sound exposure they are experiencing and what they can do to prevent hearing damage, because hearing damage is permanent.
For the last six years LimitEar® Ltd. has developed and manufactured technologies which help occupational headphone users to comply with the 2005 Noise at Work Regulations and to avoid some of the causes of sound induced hearing loss. Their products are increasingly used in broadcast TV, radio and at live events.
Now LimitEar is targeting recreational headphone user who are often subject to larger sound doses than many occupational headphone users.
Most of us are aware that exposure to impulse sounds (very loud, very short sounds) will permanently damage our hearing, making it more difficult for us to hear certain frequencies and in some cases causing tinnitus as well.
What is less well known is that we can also damage our hearing by exposure to large sound doses. The sound dose is a complex integration of how long we listen, how loud we listen and the energy content of what we listen to.
The biggest source of large sound doses in the general population is from the use of headphones.
To give you an example, a smartphone with its standard earpieces, can at maximum volume, deliver a sound pressure level of around 100 dB with high energy content, such as electronic dance music.
The safe listening period at this level is about 15 minutes per 24 hours, which means if you were to listen for say two hours per day you would be getting eight times your recommended Daily Sound Allowance™ (DSA™).
In a survey 68% of the headphone users interviewed said that they were aware of the risk but felt that they had no way of knowing when they were listening too loud for too long, and so could not manage their hearing.
Currently all smartphones in the EU have a volume level triggered warning message along the following lines: ‘Listening at high volume for a long time may damage your hearing. Tap OK to allow the volume to be increased above the safe level’.
This warning is only based on the volume setting of the phone and takes no account of how long we listen or the energy content of what we are listening to. It also ignores the sensitivity of the headphones in use, merely assuming that you are using the earpieces that were supplied with the phone. The result is that listening at the arbitrary recommended volume setting can either render the content inaudible in many common listening situations, or (more seriously) subject the listener to dangerously high levels. As a result, most headphone users ignore the warning.
So, we have a paradox; either we listen at a level we are used to and risk damaging our hearing or we adhere to the standard volume warnings and lose our enjoyment of the content. There is currently no way of indicating what their real sound exposure is.
The solution is to be found in a new approach which enables us to optimise our listening over quiet and loud periods so that we can listen “as loud as we wish for as long as is safe”.
HearAngel® from LimitEar® is a revolutionary new app, think of it as a Fitbit® for your ears.
It monitors how long we listen, how loud we listen and the energy content and calculates our sound dose, presenting it to us in an easy to understand way. We can now manage our exposure ourselves, or select automatic protection and let HearAngel do it for us.
A HearAngel proof of concept app has been built and the company has raised investment funds to build and trial a Minimum Viable Product.
Following the trials, the company intend to launch in Q3 2018.
The company anticipates launching into the smartphone sector first but is considering how it could enter the gaming sector where headphone use is common for long periods of time.
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