One in six teens has some
degree of preventable hearing loss, but few parents warn their kids to turn
down their iPods or avoid other sources of excessive noise, new research finds.
hearing loss, which is typically noise related, has increased among US adolescents,"
said study researcher Dr Deepa Sekhar, assistant professor of paediatrics at
Penn State College of Medicine.
Yet Sekhar's poll of about
700 parents found that the overwhelming majority, more than 96%, believed their
teen was not at risk, or only slightly at risk of developing hearing problems
from too much noise. More than two-thirds said they hadn't talked to their teen
about noise hazards because of the perceived low threat.
High-frequency hearing loss
Personal music devices and
concerts are a common cause of noise overdose, as is lawn-mowing, especially
when listening to music at the same time, she said. Technical subjects and sporting
events can also be extremely noisy, she said.
High-frequency hearing loss
doesn't happen overnight. It creeps up gradually, limiting the ability to hear
high-frequency common sounds in speech, such as the letters s, h
and f. Over time, this can hurt school performance, personal life and,
later, workplace success.
Whereas 13% of teens
exhibited high-frequency hearing loss in the early 1990s, that figure had
passed 16% by 2006, according to background information Sekhar provided.
The study, which involved
parents with teens aged 13 to 17 years old, was published online in the journal
JAMA Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. It was funded by a grant
from the Children's Miracle Network, a non-profit organization that draws
attention to children's health issues.
Sekhar said she doesn't
expect music-loving teens to give up this cherished pastime. Instead, she wants
to raise awareness among parents that hearing protection is essential.
Keeping the volume of
personal listening devices at reasonable levels is one way to safeguard hearing,
"It's difficult to
give an exact volume level because it is both the volume and the length of the
exposure that impact hearing in the long run," Sekhar said. She suggested
investing in volume-limiting headphones and volume controls on portable
Parents also can suggest
that their children wear ear plugs when they know noise will be excessive, such
as at concerts, in technical classes and when mowing the lawn, she said.
They should also discourage
using two sources of loud noise simultaneously for example, listening to music
while mowing the lawn or snow-blowing, she said.
Hearing specialist Robert
Frisina, director of the Global Centre for Hearing and Speech Research at the
University of South Florida, in Tampa, offered some advice for parents.
"For personal listening devices, activate the volume limit that most
devices have to prevent noise damage but are not usually activated by
teenagers," he said.
When teens are going to be
engaging in activities that involve loud noise, advise them to wear hearing
protection, he added. The pliable ear plugs available at drug stores are one
Sounds above 85 decibels
can cause permanent hearing loss, according to the American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Some MP3 players can reach 110 decibels,
while lawn mowers can hit 106.
In her study, Sekhar found
that better-educated parents and parents of younger teens were more likely than
others to encourage safe-listening practices.
To learn more about hearing
loss, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
(Picture: Young girl listening to music from Shutterstock)