Children’s Hospital Offers Tips To Protect Teenagers From Hearing Loss

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NEWARK—Families looking to buy birthday and holiday gifts for teens should consider a recent study about teen hearing loss before purchasing the most popular musical gadgets. The study, published in the Aug. 18, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that one in five American teenagers has some level of hearing loss. The loss is most likely linked to the loud volume of music played directly into young ears through personal music players.

The researchers analyzed the hearing screenings of 1,800 12- to 19-year-olds and found a 31 percent increase in teenage hearing loss. The finding that 19.5 percent had slight hearing loss would mean those teens probably can’t hear sounds like a whisper, the researchers reported. The study’s findings show that hearing loss could affect learning and communication for an estimated 6.5 million teens.

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“Listening to loud sounds for long periods through tiny electronic speakers that fit into ears could potentially contribute to hearing loss,” says Rosa Abreu, MA CCC-A, Audiologist and Manager of the Speech & Hearing Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Exposure to high noise levels over time can cause permanent damage to the tiny hairs in the cochlea, which then can’t transmit sounds effectively.”

The following are sound safety suggestions for teens from ChoNJ:

  • A safe volume to listen to music is below 85 decibels — which is an iPod at 50 percent volume. In the workplace, when sound levels exceed 85 decibels, workers must be offered hearing protection and regular testing to prevent hearing damage.
  • Turn down the volume on your stereo, television and car radio.
  • Children and teens should use hearing protection when going to concerts or playing in a band.
  • Signs of potential hearing loss include: are asking that things be repeated, having difficulty following directions, listening to the television at a loud volume, having problems with speech and language, and having trouble identifying sounds.
  • Symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss include ringing or buzzing in the ears, abnormal pitch perception and hypersensitivity to sound.
  • Frequent concert goers or those in a band should visit an audiologist to obtain an inexpensive pair of custom made earplugs.
  • Have your teenager’s hearing tested regularly by his or her physician. You can schedule a hearing test by calling the Speech and Hearing Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, 201 Lyons Avenue, Newark, at 973-926-7815.

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