Two national surveys indicate that hearing loss among younger Americans is on the rise. Hearing loss in adolescents has increased by almost 30% since 1994. That increase means that 1 in 5 adolescents is showing signs of hearing loss.
According to the report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 1 in 20 Americans between the ages of 12 and 19 show enough damage that their ability to listen and learn is affected.
Hearing loss can hurt learning
Researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital compared hearing loss of 5000 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 19 with results from a similar study concluded in 1994.
The increase in hearing loss was surprising and worrisome. Children who reported only a “slight” loss of hearing could not hear certain consonants or very soft sounds.
But for those who reported a “mild” hearing loss, they could miss entire words when listening to someone speaking at a normal volume.
Following a conversation in a noisy room becomes difficult. Classrooms can often be noisy and in this environment a student with hearing loss may miss some or all a lecture or classroom discussion. Eventually this will have a negative impact on learning ability.
Is it the music?
No one has drawn an absolute correlation between the use of personal music devices and hearing loss. But noise levels and the lengthier expose to it have increased. When the Sony Walkman was introduced in the 1980’s some additional hearing loss was reported.
But the older devices had limitations which the current technology has improved. Older devices had limited storage capacity and also limited battery life. Audiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston found that adolescents today listen to their IPODs and MP3 players twice as long as the previous generation listened to their Walkman’s.
One recent study in Australia did link the use of personal listening devices with an increased loss of hearing in children that approached 70%.
They may be other causes
Other audiologists think that the increased hearing loss may be the result of other causes. They cite certain genetic disorders as a possible source. In addition, the improved survival rate of premature infants may influence the numbers. It is believed that premature infants as they develop are more susceptible to hearing problems.
Whatever the cause the impact will become noticeable in the years to come. Teenagers who are reporting some hearing loss now may need hearing aids when they reach their 50’s or 60’s.
Today most age related hearing loss and the need for a hearing aid is most prevalent in persons in their 70’s and 80’s.
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