Teen Hearing Loss May Be Increasing

Two large studies of hearing involving several thousand adolescents between 12 and 19 years old found a significant increase in hearing loss between 1988-1994 and 2005-2006. The earlier study found that about 15% of teens had some degree of hearing loss. That number increased to just over 19% in the 2005-2006 study.

Most cases were mild hearing loss, but even mild hearing loss can have significant effects on performance in school. Mild hearing loss in younger children can interfere with speech and language development.

Although the studies did not examine possible causes, noise exposure may be one of the culprits. Almost 2/3 of the cases of hearing loss were high-frequency loss which is consistent with the loss due to noise exposure.

Is it their iPods?

Personal music devices such as iPods have become very popular, and we've become used to seeing teenagers (and adults) with earbuds in their ears. But lPod music, whether it's Mozart or rap, can damage hearing. It's painless and it's cumulative, year after year. Add in occasional rock concert and exposure to other noise such as motorcycles and lawnmowers, and permanent hearing loss can occur.

Unfortunately, there are usually no warning signs that noise exposure has caused hearing loss until considerable damage has occurred. Sometimes, however, there are warning signs - a ringing in the ears, or a temporary dull sense of hearing.

The best way to deal with hearing loss is to prevent it, so here are some suggestions for people who love their iPods:

  • Lower the volume. If someone has to speak louder than normal for you to hear them over the music, it's probably too loud.
  • Use sound-isolating earphones that go over the ear instead of earbuds (that go into the ear). Earbuds increase the volume by 6 to 9 dB because of the tighter fit.
  • Limit the time you listen to personal music devices.
  • Use earplugs when exposed to loud sounds such as lawnmowers and rock concerts.


"Reproduced from Hearing HealthCare News©, Winter 2011."
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