Earlier this month, a Washington Post column referenced this American Osteopathic Association article stating, "1 in 5 teens has some form of hearing loss - a rate about 30% higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s - which many experts believe is due, in part, to the increased use of headphones." That's a number that might come as a surprise to many parents. It might also come as a surprise that noise - not age - is the number one cause of hearing loss.
Think of hearing loss as sun damage - although you don't notice it in the moment, exposure to loud noises over time can result in irreparable damage for the rest of your life. Kids are being exposed to loud noises from electronic media, concerts, movies, and more at earlier ages, now. Sarah Sydlowski, the audiology director of the hearing implant program at the Cleveland Clinic stated, “The baby boomer generation is dealing with skin cancer from the tanning they did as teens. This generation will have to deal with the consequences of noise exposure that damaged their hearing.”
What Can Parents Do?
1. Test for Hearing Loss - Get your kids screened by an audiologist or physician. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for high-frequency hearing, a telltale sign of noise-induced hearing loss, at three ages:
- 11-14 years
- 15-17 years
- 18-21 years
2. Enforce Safe Listening Habits - A good rule of thumb for parents is if you can hear noise from your child's headphones/earbuds, then it's too loud. Volume above 50-60% on personal listening devices while wearing headphones and earbuds is risky. Kids also should be able to hear conversations taking place while listening, and they should take breaks every hour.
3. Protect Your Ears - Kids (and adults) should wear ear protection when being exposed to loud noises, such as concerts, movies and mowing the lawn. We've identified common sounds and decibels that warrant hearing protection in our post titled, "Protect Your Ears from Loud Summer Sounds."
Hearing loss has been linked to poor school performance, social isolation, feelings of depression and anxiety, reduced language development, and low self esteem. Although we agree as parents that our children don't always "listen" to us, as audiologists, we recommend a hearing screening to rule out a legitimate hearing loss. Contact us for a complimentary screening.