Hearing loss among teens jumped five percent over the last 15 years. It now affects nearly 20 percent of U.S. adolescents, ages 12-19.
That is according to a new Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study co-led by Ron Eavey, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center and Guy M. Maness Professor in Otolaryngology. Otolaryngolo
The results are especially troubling because researchers don’t have any hard evidence to explain why hearing loss is on the rise among youth.
“What jumped out at us was the fact that hearing loss increased a lot,” Eavey said. “Overall it went from 15 percent of adolescents to 20 percent…and one in five is showing signs that they are on the route to having hearing loss.”
Hearing loss in youth can compromise social development, communication skills and educational achievement, according to the authors.
There are vaccines available that can stop bacterial meningitis and they also help get rid of some cases of ear infections, so hearing loss from those causes is down.
Researchers say it would then be easy to conclude that the increase is caused by loud volume, which is often piped straight into their ears from MP3 players. Data to support that theory, however, is unclear.
“We can modify noise exposure, and that’s where I think we can at least try and put some brakes on, whether it is coming from noise-induced hearing loss or not,” Eavey said.
“We are looking at the front wall of an epidemic and we can help to prevent the loss to allow the kids to enjoy their ears and their great music a lot longer,” he added.
Experts recommend that parents and children pre-set their electronic music devices to somewhere between one-half and two-thirds maximum volume because any sound over 85 decibels (dBs) exceeds what hearing experts consider to be safe. Some MP3 players are programmed to reach levels as high as 120 dBs.
This is believed to be an important step that will allow kids to safely enjoy their music, without damaging their ears.
For more information on the study, click here. If you have concerns about your child’s hearing, check with your local ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist. To find an ENT in your community, click here. In Huntsville, Ala., you may want to call Dr. Shane Davis at ENT of Huntsville at 256-881-5353.