Skip to main content

Say What? Your Teens Hearing Might Be At Risk

10/01/2015 00:00 ● Published by Sandy Kauten

Kids aren’t generally known for their superb listening skills. But if yours constantly responds with “What?” when spoken to, insists on blistering music volume and seems frustrated or withdrawn at school or home, something larger could be at play. Rates of hearing loss in adolescents have spiked dramatically in recent years. Your child could be one of millions with noise-induced hearing damage, a condition that could have an impact on everything from safe driving to school success.

Sounding Off

The chorus of “What?” is getting louder; hearing loss in adolescents has increased 31 percent since 1988, according to a 2010 study, with one in five teens now affected. For many, the hearing loss is noise-induced, and it’s permanent. The Journal of Pediatrics reports that 12.5 percent of kids ages 6–19 have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to loud music, video games and environments.

That’s a growing problem, because according to a new Pennsylvania State University report, school hearing screenings don’t detect noise-exposure hearing loss, leaving teens at risk for undetected hearing loss, which can put a strain on academic progress, college prep, relationships and home life. Even mild hearing impairment can undermine speech and language development, and require school accommodations such as speech therapy and auditory training.

But parents who don’t know there is a problem can’t seek help. Noise-induced hearing loss in children and adolescents is underreported, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Teens often don’t realize their hearing is subpar until they’ve already fallen behind in school, says Rebecca M. Fischer, Ph.D., a professor of audiology and director of the Communication Disorders program at Middle Tennessee State University.

“Teens don’t usually notice a gradual change or loss in their hearing,” she says. “Usually, the ones to notice a teen’s hearing damage are relatives and friends. And sometimes, hearing damage sustained during teen years doesn’t show up as hearing loss until the 20s or 30s.”

A Dull Roar

What is hurting teens’ hearing? Most likely, it’s their behavior, Fischer says, specifically, the near-constant use of iPods and other personal listening devices. The Journal of Pediatrics study points to excessively loud earbuds for the spike in children’s hearing problems; the 115-decibel maximum volume on an iPod Shuffle is as noisy as a sandblaster or a loud rock concert, and loud enough to permanently damage hearing with regular use.

“Look around any high school or college campus, and you see teens and young adults with earbuds in, all the time,” Fischer says, noting these devices aren’t regulated to protect young listeners. By contrast, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) strictly regulates noisy work environments to protect hearing.

Employers whose work environments are above 85 decibels (construction sites or airports, for example) have to provide a hearing conservation program for employees, including workshops, noise-protection devices like earplugs, and hearing tests, Fischer says. But a teen with an iPod or video game system can take in well above the level that OSHA deems safe, every day, for years.

Because personal listening devices are just that - personal - tracking and regulating use is difficult, says Stacey D. Watson, M.S., an audiologist with Seattle’s Swedish Medical Group. The sound is under the user’s control, and because teens are often away from a parent’s watchful gaze, parents probably won’t know if a teen is spending hours drenched in (literally) deafening sound.

Hearing 101

Hearing mechanics are complex, but essentially, sound enters the cochlea, the spiral-shaped structure in the inner ear, and causes cilia (tiny hairs) to vibrate. Thanks to the cochlea’s extra-sensitive nerve endings, the brain reads these movements as sound. But over time, exposure to high levels of sound can damage the cilia and impair hearing permanently.

Though hearing can be temporarily muffled after a single episode of loud noise — a raucous concert or a jet taking off — the inner ear usually bounces back from these relatively isolated incidents. But daily, extended, long-term earbud use is different, because the ear rarely gets a chance to heal when the listening device is always in use.

“Sound is really pressure,” Fischer says. “Think of the pressure of water on a grassy beach. Over time, the water comes ashore, and if the water has enough power, the grasses are washed away.” That’s how loud noise permanently compromises hearing - eventually, the pressure destroys the inner structure of the ear — and why constant exposure to high levels of it is so damaging, she says.

At first, this type of hearing damage affects the ability to hear higher frequencies of sound, including the softer sounds of speech, such as the “s” or “th” sounds, says deaf author and speaker Karen Putz, M.A., who penned The Parenting Journey: Raising Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and writes the Deaf Mom blog.

“This can make it difficult for a teen to hear well in the classroom, in noisy situations and in crowds,” Putz says. “Women and children have voices in the higher frequencies, making it more challenging for a teen with noise-induced hearing loss to understand them.”

Sound Safeguards

As attached as kids are to their earbuds, parents can exercise some influence, Fischer says. If a child listens to a device or plays a video game at a “10” (maximum) volume, ask them to back it off to 8 or 9 for a week and stay there. “Over time, they’ll realize that they can actually enjoy sound without it being so loud.”

For daily iPod use, aim for the “two-thirds/one hour” rule: The volume dial should be turned up no more than two-thirds of the way, and kids should limit use to one hour at a time.

“If a person can’t hear someone talking to them while listening to a personal music player, the volume is too loud,” Watson says.

For iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, parents can set a volume limit and prevent changes to that setting in the devices by entering “Settings” and viewing General/Restrictions.

Complaints of ringing or other sounds in the ears (known as tinnitus), pain the ears or a feeling that the ears are “plugged up” are signs to ease off on personal music players for a few days. If hearing loss is suspected, an online hearing test can provide some insight, with follow-up by an audiologist if needed, Putz says.

Relatively minor lifestyle tweaks can make a major impact on hearing quality, and quality of life, Fischer says. “Our hearing mechanism is pretty wonderful” — and too valuable not to protect.

by Malia Jacobson.  Malia is an award-winning health and parenting journalist and mom of three. Her latest book is Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades.

Parenting, Today, Today hearing loss, ear buds, head phones, hearing damage, decibles, teens, music, ipod, music
  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/15/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Howl at the Moon! Winter Solstice Celebration

    12/15/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Bring the whole family for a howling good time at the museum and the Many Nations Longhouse!   ...


  • Opening Reception

    12/15/2017
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Singin' In The Rain

    12/15/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    You remember the plot! You love the characters! You know “the song”! You’ll adore the sparkling, ...


  • Holiday Market

    12/16/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Saturday Market’s Holiday Market takes the best things about the Saturday Market, bringing them i...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/16/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Tree & Tea Party

    12/16/2017
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    Join us for a family-paced winter wander through Hendricks Park’s tall trees. Post walk, enjoy te...


  • Nutcracker Remixed

    12/16/2017
    02:00PM — 04:30PM

    What do you get when you take the classic tale of the Nutcracker and give it a modern twist? The ...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    12/16/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Nutcracker Remixed

    12/16/2017
    06:30PM — 09:00PM

    What do you get when you take the classic tale of the Nutcracker and give it a modern twist? The ...


  • Singin' In The Rain

    12/16/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    You remember the plot! You love the characters! You know “the song”! You’ll adore the sparkling, ...


It looks like we don't have any events for this date. You can always add an event.

  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/15/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Howl at the Moon! Winter Solstice Celebration

    12/15/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Bring the whole family for a howling good time at the museum and the Many Nations Longhouse!   ...


  • Opening Reception

    12/15/2017
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Singin' In The Rain

    12/15/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    You remember the plot! You love the characters! You know “the song”! You’ll adore the sparkling, ...


  • Holiday Market

    12/16/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Saturday Market’s Holiday Market takes the best things about the Saturday Market, bringing them i...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/16/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Tree & Tea Party

    12/16/2017
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    Join us for a family-paced winter wander through Hendricks Park’s tall trees. Post walk, enjoy te...


  • Nutcracker Remixed

    12/16/2017
    02:00PM — 04:30PM

    What do you get when you take the classic tale of the Nutcracker and give it a modern twist? The ...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    12/16/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Nutcracker Remixed

    12/16/2017
    06:30PM — 09:00PM

    What do you get when you take the classic tale of the Nutcracker and give it a modern twist? The ...


  • Singin' In The Rain

    12/16/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    You remember the plot! You love the characters! You know “the song”! You’ll adore the sparkling, ...


  • Holiday Market

    12/17/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Saturday Market’s Holiday Market takes the best things about the Saturday Market, bringing them i...


  • Nutcracker Remixed

    12/17/2017
    02:00PM — 04:30PM

    What do you get when you take the classic tale of the Nutcracker and give it a modern twist? The ...


  • Singin' In The Rain

    12/17/2017
    03:00PM — 05:30PM

    You remember the plot! You love the characters! You know “the song”! You’ll adore the sparkling, ...


  • Nutcracker Remixed

    12/17/2017
    06:30PM — 09:00PM

    What do you get when you take the classic tale of the Nutcracker and give it a modern twist? The ...


  • Applegate Regional Theatre and Studio 7 unite to present this “Holiday Concert and Carol Sing-alo...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/19/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    12/19/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • PreSchool & Lapsit Storytimes

    12/20/2017
    10:00AM — 10:30PM

    Every Wednesday at 10:00am we have two storytimes in the children's area of the library. To the l...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/20/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/21/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    12/21/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/22/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Holiday Market

    12/23/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Saturday Market’s Holiday Market takes the best things about the Saturday Market, bringing them i...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/23/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    12/23/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Holiday Market

    12/24/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Saturday Market’s Holiday Market takes the best things about the Saturday Market, bringing them i...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/26/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    12/26/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • PreSchool & Lapsit Storytimes

    12/27/2017
    10:00AM — 10:30PM

    Every Wednesday at 10:00am we have two storytimes in the children's area of the library. To the l...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/27/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/28/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    12/28/2017
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    12/29/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


 

 January 2017 Education Guide

NEW!! Coming in Sept / Oct 2017!!!

 

Weekly Recipes