Why is hearing loss on the rise among teens

Hearing loss in teens is becoming increasingly common. Educate yourself and your child about how to protect their hearing

teen with headphones and mic, hearing loss

Parents with teenage children often complain that their teens do not listen to anything that they say; but there is a possibility that your teen may actually not  be able to hear you clearly enough. Teenage hearing loss is extremely challenging to detect and treat due to its slow progression. The most common cause of hearing loss in teenagers is noise induced and it is preventable.

Evaluating the risk of teenage hearing impairment

The Journal of Pediatrics estimates that 12.5% of individuals between six to 19 years have hearing loss due to prolonged noise exposure. Hearing disorders can affect anyone, but hearing loss that affects teenagers can be 100% prevented, making it important to raise awareness and take action early. Teenagers of today are caught in the whirlwind of technological advances with a wide range of digital audio devices to choose from. These devices are often measured by their loudness level or by the maximum decibel levels that they can reach. Most of them also have a high storage capacity, allowing users to store thousands of songs for longer listening times. To make matters worse, teens prefer to use ear buds instead of head phones, increasing direct loud sound exposure in the ear canals, which increases the risk of damage to the auditory sense.

Lifestyle plays a major role in noise-induced hearing loss in teenagers. Teens and tweens are exposed to high decibel levels, not just from mp3 players, but also from video games, music concerts and parties. Most remain oblivious to the risk posed to their hearing. There are very few teenagers who are aware of the detrimental effects noise or loud music has on their ears. Although hearing loss does not develop overnight, the damage is progressive and steady. This type of frequent or prolonged noise exposure begins to affect the auditory senses slowly, with high frequency hearing getting affected first and then the lower frequencies. In time, it also becomes hard to discern speech clearly, making it tough to communicate.

Early age hearing loss can come with unprecedented challenges. It can adversely impact academic performance, participation in extracurricular activities and worst of all, social interaction. Parents should be aware of these warning signs and ought to be concerned if their teen suddenly shows signs of increased social isolation and if their grades start to suffer.

How you can lower the risk of teenage hearing disorders

As a parent in the digital world you may feel pretty helpless, but it’s not a lost cause. There’s a lot that you can do to increase your understanding of the problem and take preventive action.

  1. Parents should educate themselves and their teens about safety measures to protect against hearing loss
  2. When listening to music or any other auditory stimuli, decibel levels should never exceed 80 decibels
  3. Audio output from your listening device should be kept at 60% of its limit when using ear buds
  4. If listening to music for a prolonged period, it is advisable to take a break every 60 minutes
  5. It’s easy to tell if your ear bud or headphone volume is too high. If it’s audible to the person next to you, you need to turn it down
  6. Invest in better quality ear buds that filter out the noise, reducing the need for a higher volume output
  7. The use of headphones should be encouraged as a safer alternative to ear buds
  8. When attending concerts or parties where you cannot control decibel levels, it is advisable to use ear plugs. You can buy high quality ear plugs or get customized ones from your audiologist
  9. If you suspect that you are missing out on conversations or cannot hear certain sounds from a distance clearly, please take an Audiometry test immediately.

When it comes to hearing health, the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ still rings true. Hearing loss may not seem like a public health crisis, but when it occurs at such an early age it can severely diminish quality of life. Spreading awareness and taking small steps to prevent hearing loss, is the best that you can do to protect your teen’s hearing and safeguard his or her future.

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