Tag Archives: Carla K. Johnson

Turn Down The Noise

I am reposting an article that was published on August 17, 2010 by Carla K. Johnson, a medical writer. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat in the halls at the community college where I work, and have heard students approach before I have ever seen them coming. So many of them wear their ear buds between classes, to get from point A to point B, I have often thought the constant noise has to be having some kind of impact on their hearing.

Turns out, it is.

Study: 1 in 5 US teenagers has slight hearing loss

CHICAGO — A stunning one in five teens has lost a little bit of hearing, and the problem has increased substantially in recent years, a new national study has found. Some experts are urging teenagers to turn down the volume on their digital music players, suggesting loud music through earbuds may be to blame – although hard evidence is lacking. They warn that slight hearing loss can cause problems in school and set the stage for hearing aids in later life.

“Our hope is we can encourage people to be careful,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Gary Curhan of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The researchers analyzed data on 12- to 19-year-olds from a nationwide health survey. They compared hearing loss in nearly 3,000 kids tested from 1988-94 to nearly 1,800 kids tested over 2005-06.

While the researchers didn’t single out iPods or any other device for blame, they found a significant increase in high-frequency hearing loss, which they said may indicate that noise caused the problems. And they cited a 2010 Australian study that linked use of personal listening devices with a 70 percent increased risk of hearing loss in children.

“I think the evidence is out there that prolonged exposure to loud noise is likely to be harmful to hearing, but that doesn’t mean kids can’t listen to MP3 players,” Curhan said.

Loud music isn’t new, of course. Each new generation of teenagers has found a new technology to blast music _ from the bulky headphones of the 1960s to the handheld Sony Walkmans of the 1980s. [But] today’s young people are listening longer, more than twice as long as previous generations, said Brian Fligor, an audiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston. The older technologies had limited battery life and limited music storage, he said.

[And] some young people turn their digital players up to levels that would exceed federal workplace exposure limits, said Fligor. In Fligor’s own study of about 200 New York college students, more than half listened to music at 85 decibels or louder. That’s about as loud as a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner.

Bottom line, if you can hear someone’s music playing while their earbuds are in, they are probably listening to their music at too loud of a decibel. And while they may hate you, you would be doing them a big favor in asking them to dial down the noise.

Do you let your kids use ear buds? Do you feel they use them at a reasonable listening level? Would you feel comfortable asking a stranger to turn down his/her music?

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