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More than just a lecture: Noise-induced hearing loss in teens

Contributed by , staff writer

Teenagers are on the receiving end of a lot of daily lectures:

Make your bed; it improves your character.

Don’t frown; your face will get stuck like that.

Sit up straight; you’ll have bad posture.

The fear these statements are supposed to instill in their adolescent subjects wears off fairly quickly, to which any parent can attest. So why should they listen when they’re lectured on the potential hearing damage their lifestyle can cause? While headphones, concerts and their friend’s speaker system can create a hearing problem when they’re older, teens oftentimes ignore the warning signs. Their hearing is fine, so why should they worry? If the music were really too loud, wouldn’t it hurt their ears?

Listen up! Those warnings about noise-induced
hearing loss aren't just suggestions, they're 
fact-based! 

A 2005 study printed in PEDIATRICS, the publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests there is proof that loud music is causing measurable noise-induced hearing loss in adolescents. Researchers posted a voluntary 28-question survey to MTV.com, prompting the participants on issues of general health and hearing wellness. What they found was startling: out of 9,963 participants, 61 percent had experienced tinnitus at music concerts, and 43 percent had experienced tinnitus at clubs.

Tinnitus, a ringing or hissing noise in the ears that is often an indication of an underlying hearing condition, is a symptom that approximately 1 in 5 Americans experience. The MTV study concluded that a majority of young adults have experienced tinnitus and hearing impairment after exposure to loud music.

Despite these statistics, only 14 percent of respondents said they used hearing protection while in loud music venues. Fortunately, however, 66 percent of the respondents said they would consider wearing earplugs if they were properly advised on the potential for hearing loss.

So the question is, how to advise them? We’ve already established that teens often ignore their parents when it comes to everyday advice, but in fact, another recent survey found that many parents don’t even attempt talking to their teens about hearing loss.

Try asking them specific questions, like if they have had any hissing or roaring in their ears when they’re out listening to music with their friends. Ask if any of their friends have complained about tinnitus symptoms, and introduce them to the research that’s been done on adolescent hearing loss. Point out anyone you know personally who suffers from hearing loss and how their condition developed.

The Centers for Disease Control report more than five million young adults suffer from some sort of hearing loss that frequently comes from prolonged exposure to loud music or some other type of loud noise. If your teen isn’t experiencing hearing loss now, such a talk could prevent him from developing it in the future. Talking about specific hearing loss could also identify any existing issue your teen does have, and your teen will be more likely to talk to you about it if he or she notices it later on down the road.

Your teen’s hearing might be fine now, but the gradual damage that happens over time often starts at an early age. Do your research and take time to have a real discussion with your children, instead of just instructing them to turn the volume on their iPod down when they’re running to catch the bus.

And be observant; they might only pretend to have hearing loss when you ask them to take out the trash.

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