For previous generations of teens, the refrain from parents was often, “Turn that music down!” MP3 players and ear buds have eliminated the household nuisance of the too-loud stereo – but at what price?
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston report that the number of U.S. teens with hearing loss jumped 30% between 1988 and 2006. And while the study, published Aug. 18 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, didn’t name the cause, experts speculate these devices are to blame. Teens are too young for other types of noise exposure, prolonged use of medications, or other factors to explain the trend.
The study – involving more than 2,900 teens in the 1980s and 1990s, and more than 1,700 in 2005-06 – found that:
• Most of the hearing loss was so slight teens wouldn’t likely notice it.
• Most of the hearing loss was in one ear.
• In the 2005-06 group most of the loss was confined to high frequencies. (Compression of music for MP3 files removes dynamic highs and lows in music, putting greater stress on high-frequency hearing.)
• In the 2005-06 group, 77% more teens had “mild” or “worse” hearing loss than in the 1988-1994-group.
Researchers note that it will take further study to confirm the reasons for the hearing loss. Experts who blame MP3 players speculate that because hearing damage tends to be progressive, the problem will only get worse over time.
Want to protect your kids? Ask them to set the automatic volume on their MP3 players to a safe level – a level where they can hear you speak to them even while they are listening to their music.
Tags: hearing loss