1 in 5 US Teenagers has Hearing Loss

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows hearing loss in teens increased from about 15% in 1988-94, to 19.5% in 2005-2006.  Extrapolating this data to the overall teen population indicates that 6.5 million teens have experienced hearing loss to a lesser or greater extent.

Taking a different tack on internet safety warnings, experts are urging teenagers to turn down the volume suggesting loud music, voices, games, and video heard through earbuds/headsets may be to blame for the increase in hearing loss among youth uncovered in a new national study.

“Our hope is we can encourage people to be careful,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Gary Curhan of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in an interview for the Washington Post. “I think the evidence is out there that prolonged exposure to loud noise is likely to be harmful to hearing, but that doesn’t mean kids can’t listen to MP3 players,” Curhan said.

The hearing loss among study participants was mostly “slight” described as an inability to hear sounds at 16 to 24 decibels – like whispers or leaves rustling. But that’s enough to result in difficulty learning in school and increase the chances of needing hearing aids later in life.

The Post article states that “While the researchers didn’t single out iPods or any other device for blame, they found a significant increase in high-frequency hearing loss, which they said may indicate that noise caused the problems. And they cited a 2010 Australian study that linked use of personal listening devices with a 70 percent increased risk of hearing loss in children. ”

While listing to music and other content at high volume is typical of every teen generation, this generation is listening for more than twice as long as previous generations, according to Brian Fligor, an audiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston. The reason? Older technologies had limited battery life and limited music storage, he said.

Setting limits

Users control the volume at which they listen, and teaching youth to keep the volume down is a key step in avoiding hearing loss. Some teens listen to their music, video, and game content at levels that would exceed federal workplace exposure limits, said Fligor.

Habitual listening at those levels can turn microscopic hair cells in the inner ear into scar tissue, Fligor said, and noted that in a study he conducted, over half of the college students listened to music volumes that would exceed federal workplace exposure limits.

Help your teens understand that consuming content at high volume carries a price tag, one they may pay for the rest of their lives.



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