According to findings which were reported in the August 18, 2010 issue of JAMA, the incidence of hearing loss in the adolescent population may be increasing. The Third National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted between 1988 and 1994 found 14.9 % of 3,210 children aged 6 to 19 years had some degree of hearing loss in at least one ear. Most children had mild or high frequency hearing loss.
A similar NHANES study conducted between 2005 and 2006 found 19.5 % of 2,290 subjects had hearing loss. That indicates a 30 % increase. The pattern of the high frequency sensorineural hearing loss is the same that is found in cases of noise exposure.
Even a mild hearing loss can have important educational and social implications for school age children. For younger children, mild hearing loss can affect speech and language development.
With increased use of iPods and other MP3 type players, the individuals can minimize the possible damage by lowering the volume of the device. They should also consider using headsets rather than the ear buds. The ear buds that fit deeper into the ear can increase the volume by 6 to 9 decibels. The user should also limit the time they use their device each day.
As with any exposure to intense sound, the abuse to the ear can be permanent. Once the damage is done, there is nothing at this time that will repair the damaged microscopic hair cells in the inner ear. If your children, grandchildren on great grandchildren are playing their music too loud (You can hear it too!), be sure to warn them about possible hearing loss and recommend that they get a hearing test by an audiologist to make sure their hearing has not been damaged.