More than a billion 12 to 25-year-olds are risking irreversible hearing loss from exposure to loud sounds such as music played on smartphones and other personal devices, UN health experts have warned as they released a new standard to help tackle the problem.

WHO ITU standard cover

From the cover of the new standard.

The joint World Health Organization-International Telecommunication Union standard recommends include introducing better monitoring on personal audio devices on how loud and for how long people listen to music and options to limit volumes including automatic reduction controls and parental controls as well as the provision of better information and guidance for users on safe listening practices.

More than five per cent of the world's population - some 466 million people including 34 million children - have disabling hearing loss and the majority live in low and middle income nations. It's estimated that by 2050, more than 900 million people - one in every 10 - will have disabling hearing loss. It's suggested that as many as half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said that given the existence of 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."

"They must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won’t come back. This new WHO-ITU standard will do much to better safeguard these young consumers as they go about doing something they enjoy.”

The standard was developed in a two year process under the WHO's 'Make Listening Safe' initiative which seeks to improve listening practices among young people.

The WHO estimates unaddressed hearing loss costs the global economy $US750 million a year.