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Risky Listening: Hearing Loss in Children

By Deborah Burke, M.Ed., CCC-A

Hearing loss rates are rising in children and young adults.  Studies show that young people today are generally more sensible in regards to their health than previous generations except for the protection and preservation of their hearing.  Approximately 12% of all children ages 6-19 have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss and a CDC survey of adults in their 20’s found that about 20% of them have measurable hearing loss.

Teens and young adults are especially at high risk for hearing loss.  Activities of their daily life are now potentially causes of hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). This age group is more likely to attend concerts or loud sporting events, use lawn equipment (without hearing protection) and to use headphones/earbuds to listen to music at excessive volume levels which can cause permanent hearing loss.  The World Health Organization (WHO) found that over 50% of young people ages 15-35 listen to music from personal audio devices (usually phones) at volumes that are unsafe (100 decibels or greater).  The structure of the ear (hair cells in the inner ear) are very sensitive and can start to show damage after as little as 14 minutes at noise levels of 100 decibels or more.  Even sounds at 85 decibels have the potential to affect hearing sensitivity (such as lawn mowers, hair dryers, some vacuums).  The resulting hearing loss usually starts in high-frequency region of hearing and can cause the diminishing ability to hear speech “clearly” – especially in situations with background noise such as classrooms, social situations and work meetings which are so crucial to young people.  The majority of noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible and with continued exposure will worsen with time and aging.

Safe listening practices are important for all ages but especially crucial for children and young people.  Be aware that childhood noise risks can include things like noisy toys, band class, shop class, firecrackers, motor bikes, arcades and even movie theaters. When around noise,  please provide your child with hearing protection.  Hearing protection earmuffs or foam earplugs can be purchased at any pharmacy or home improvement store.  Earplugs are very portable can easily be carried in your pocket/bag when attending concerts.  Also, when listening to music through headphones/earbuds, the style of the headphone/earbud is irrelevant.  All styles, even “noise-cancelling” headphones, can destroy your hearing.  When listening to headphones/earbuds, apply the “60/60” rule.  Do not listen to the device at more than 60% of full volume and take a break after 60 minutes of continuous listening.

If you think your child or someone you know may have a hearing loss, please do not hesitate to set up an appointment with one of our HearMD staff for a complete audiological evaluation.  Living with untreated hearing loss will decrease one’s quality of life, relationships and career/academic success.

For more information, you can visit HearMDllc.com or call us today at 856-602-4200 to start on the path to better hearing for better living.

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