Hearing loss is one of those health concerns that people tend to associate more with the elderly, but the reality is it is a problem that is affecting today’s teenagers at an alarming rate. This generation will have to deal with the consequences of noise exposure that damaged their hearing.
Current studies show that 1 in 5 teenagers are showing signs of mild hearing loss. Most teenagers who have developed hearing issues are suffering from high-frequency hearing loss due to excessive noise exposure.
Loud music has always been prevalent among youth. The sound level 28 years ago from a Walkman, with its flimsy headphones, was much lower than today’s high-fidelity smartphones with earbuds that deliver louder sound much closer to the eardrum. Today’s devices also have much longer battery life and much more storage capacity than earlier ones, which means kids and teens are exposed to loud music for a longer time.
A daily barrage of loud video games, music, concerts, sporting events, and movie theaters, just to name a few, delivers an unprecedented assault on the hearing of our youth, the likes of which has not been seen in previous years.
Shelley Heath, AuD, with Bluegrass Hearing Clinic, states, “Most teens don’t realize the risks involved with long-term recreational noise exposure. Exposure to recreational noise accumulates over time, damaging the cochlea in the inner ear and causing permanent hearing impairment.” The hearing you have when you’re born is all you get. Those cells can’t be replaced. The more often the ears are exposed to damaging noise, the more cells die, leading to permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss in teenagers can also take a toll on their school performance. Hearing loss affects everything from education to social life to confidence level and vocational choices.
The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to protect your kids’ hearing, but first you must understand more about the issue. Teach your kids how to protect their ears and how to recognize the signs of hearing damage, so that they can hear their best for many decades to come.
Guidelines to prevent hearing loss in teens:
Schedule a hearing exam by a doctor of audiology to have a baseline exam.
Apply the 80/90 rule: keep the volume under 80% and only listen for a maximum of 90 minutes a day.
Have your teen use headphones rather than earbuds, because these don’t force the sound into your teen’s ear in such a direct way.
Wear ear protection (ear plugs) anytime your teen is in a loud environment such as a concert, sporting event, or operating machinery such as a lawn mower. Custom-molded musician’s earplugs and high-decibel earplugs are recommended for teens who play in bands or are frequently in loud environments.
Inform your teen that if they can’t hear conversations at a normal volume, if they have muffled hearing after they turn their music off, or have been in a loud environment for a long period of time, to let you know.
Founded by Dr. Deanna Frazier in 1997, Bluegrass Hearing Clinic’s mission is “to prevent, protect, and promote better hearing.” With 11 locations throughout Kentucky, Bluegrass Hearing Clinic provides hearing solutions with state-of-the-art hearing technology in assistive listening devices; noise protection; swimming and custom wireless earbuds; and a range of other device accessories that prevent hearing loss and protect and promote better hearing. With the belief that better hearing is better living, Bluegrass Hearing Clinic is “where better hearing begins.”
Lisa Meeker is the marketing and outreach director for Bluegrass Hearing Clinic