Is teen hearing loss on the rise?

(BPT) – Pause for a moment and picture someone who is hard of hearing. Did a teenager come to mind? Probably not. However, the results of a recent study paint a troubling picture of today’s hearing-impaired person – and it might just be the portrait of a teen.

Nearly half (46 percent) of teens reported ringing, roaring, buzzing or pain in their ears following dangerous listening behaviors, such as listening to loud music, according to a survey commissioned by Siemens Hearing Instruments, of 500 U.S. teenagers ages 13-19. Perhaps more startling was that one in six teens admitted having these symptoms (which can all be considered potential warning signs of hearing loss) often or all the time.

Common activities put teens’ hearing at risk

So what are teens doing that is so dangerous to their ears? The survey identified the following risky behaviors:

* Listening to loud music with earphones/earbuds
* Using a lawn mower or other loud power tools without ear protection
* Playing with gas-powered toys (model airplanes, cars, or boats)
* Playing with caps, cap guns, or fireworks
* Attending loud concerts
* Playing in a band
* Riding motorcycles, snowmobiles, go-karts, etc.
* Shooting firearms

Of these, more than eight out of 10 teenagers surveyed cited “listening to loud music” as something they did all the time. Nearly nine in 10 teens admitted engaging in at least one of the above activities regularly – with listening to very loud music with earphones or earbuds the main culprit.

“Over the past decade, the popularity of earbuds combined with loud music has rapidly become the biggest cause of teens developing early noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL),” says Dr. Donna Grant, audiologist at Siemens Hearing Instruments. “Although some manufacturers allow users to set a maximum volume on their devices, the reality is that portable music players are unregulated in the U.S., so teens are free to blast their eardrums all day long.”

What parents can do to protect their teens’ hearing

NIHL can be sudden, for example a loud explosion, but it usually occurs over time and is cumulative. To reduce the risk of developing early onset of NIHL, Grant recommends the following:

Prevention

Set maximum volume limits on portable music players to 60-70 percent capacity and no more than 80 dB. If you’re not sure how to do it, ask a store representative where you purchased it or contact the manufacturer. Teens should limit their listening sessions to no more than one hour at a time, especially with earbuds. Also, talk with your teens about safe listening practices and the reality of hearing loss.

Protection

Teens should wear appropriate hearing protection for whatever high-risk hearing situation they come across. Students who play in a band either at school or home can benefit from Siemens custom hearing protection made specifically for musicians. More than just earplugs, they are custom-molded for a perfect fit and are equipped with technology that dampens the volume without distorting it.

Be proactive

Teens are influenced by their peers – encourage them to warn their friends if the music is too loud. As a rule, if they can hear their neighbor’s music over the earphones, it’s too loud. When going to a concert or other loud event, suggest they sit in the middle of the room to reduce the noise exposure. It’s also a good idea to visit a hearing care professional to get a baseline hearing evaluation. Visit https://us.hearing.siemens.com to find the online Siemens Hearing Care Professional Locator.

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