If not yours, maybe your teen’s are from ongoing exposure to high-frequency noises. As parents, we can tell them to turn down the volume, but is that enough?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hearing loss is a growing health concern not just in Indiana but worldwide. The World Health Organization reports hearing loss is on the rise in teenagers and young adults. While teens are routinely given hearing tests at school, a Penn State University study reports these screening tests are not very good at identifying high frequency hearing loss which comes from headphones and loud noise. An Australian study found 20 percent of teens and young adults listen to portable music devices at potentially damaging levels. In the Netherlands, 50 percent of adolescents and young adults use earbuds at high-volume levels, yet only 7 percent used noise-limiting earphones.
Noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable with certain precautions. It’s like avoiding a sunburn. We apply sunscreen and limit exposure. With hearing, turn the volume level to 60 percent and limit exposure. It is called the 60/60 rule – health experts recommend setting your mobile devices to 60 percent volume, listen to music for 60 minutes, and then take a break.
Pediatric researchers are investigating if using earbuds might be damaging teens’ hearing. Earbuds are pushed into the ear canal and this type of earphone rarely includes noise-limiting safeguards. Right now there is no conclusive evidence associating earbuds to hearing loss, yet it’s the most popular type of earphone and the number of teens experiencing hearing loss happens to be on the rise.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending screening teens for hearing damage at higher tones to see if they have high-frequency hearing loss. The AAP Bright Futures Guidelines state kids should get a high-frequency hearing screening tests during their adolescent years. This type of behavioral hearing test involves listening to a series of beeps through the headphones to determine the softest level (threshold) the teen can hear at a range of pitches.
In a recent AAP study, one in six teenagers had high-frequency hearing loss. This type of hearing loss can be associated with exposure to loud noises, such as music played through headphones. Noises over 90 decibels can damage the sensory cells in your ear by “fatiguing” them. After repeated exposure to high noise levels, these cells and the auditory nerve can become permanently damaged. The result is some degree of hearing loss.
So when your kids brag that their ears are ringing after a concert, sporting event, online gaming marathon, and even some movie theater experiences, be on the lookout for other symptoms like distracted listening and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). But it is also long-term exposure to noise that we need to limit. Look for the temporary threshold shift -- 16 to 48 hours after exposure to loud noises. The symptoms should disappear and hearing should be normal again. If that doesn’t happen talk to your family doctor.
60 decibels – a normal conversation among friends and family.
85 decibels – the level of noise inside a car – now add a car ride for a family vacation that includes earphones and a portable listening device like a mobile phone, tablet or laptop and volume levels are often recorded at 105 decibels.
105-120 decibels – a loud music concert or pro football game at a stadium
140 decibels – A jet engine takeoff or the Speedway track noise at the Indianapolis 500.
In case you are wondering, 142.2 decibels – That’s the current world record at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium for the loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium.
True protective headphones are those that include circuitry that limits volume output to 85 decibels even if it’s pushed to a maximum volume setting. Pass out age-appropriate ear protection at loud events and insist your teen wear them while mowing the yard.
Apply the 60/60 rule -- On electronic media devices, do some spring cleaning and adjust the volume settings.
If your child complains of hearing muffled sounds or tinnitus—a ringing, buzzing or roaring in the ears or head, see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to diagnose the cause of the ear pain and symptoms and an audiologist to determine if a hearing loss is present. There is also an association between earaches and hearing loss. In a teenager, ear infections are more often associated with sinus infections and swimmer’s ear. Both affect hearing. We also know that with air pressure changes, like those experienced in flight or on a G-force thrill ride, hearing loss is possible and typically temporarily.
So if your child is recuperating from an ear, nose or throat condition, discourage him or her from using earbuds to listen to music or the TV. By pushing the earbuds into the ear canal, you seal off the air flow and cause an added pressure that the ear doesn’t need when it is trying to heal. Encourage your child to digitally disconnect and get some rest.
For more information contact The Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital Ear Nose and Throat Center and Pediatric Communications Center, 317-338-6815. http://www.peytonmanningch.org/earnose-throat-ent/ These pediatric otolaryngologists, nurses and audiologists diagnose and treat all types of ear conditions in children from newborn to age 18. The audiology group specializes in comprehensive hearing tests and offers a variety of hearing devices and ear protection.