With the increasing popularity of MP3 players, teens and even younger children face a newly discovered risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
Doctors in Miami and around the country say they’re seeing younger and younger patients with hearing loss symptoms that typically don't occur before middle age, according to the article “iPod Ear: Plugged-in Teens May Be Damaging Their Hearing” in the Miami Herald. Many of the doctors blame the constant use of iPods and other players that blast music directly into the ears.
Dr. Robert Fifer, director of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the University of Miami's Mailman Center for Child Development, is quoted in the article saying that doctors are seeing the same kind of hearing loss they used to see in older people who worked in factories for years.
The findings have implications for baby boomers who are big users of iPods. Since boomers are older and may have already experienced some hearing loss, care is needed to prevent further damage.
Boomer parents and grandparents also may want to monitor the use of ear listening devices in children and teens in their families.
iPods can reach about 120 decibels when they’re at peak volume. That’s the noise level between a jackhammer and a jet engine. A safe level, hearing experts recommend, is 85 decibels, which is the sound of city traffic. The range of an MP3 player is about 60 to 110 decibels. However, many people go beyond the recommended limits. For example, they tend to turn up the volume when they're on the street or in crowded places.
Hearing specialist interviewed for the article recommend:
- Keeping the volume turned down, with the volume level set at half.
- Limiting listening time to give your ears a rest.
If you're beginning to experience hearing loss, check the Web site of the American Academy of Audiology for information on how to find an audiologist near you. Symptoms to watch for are having problems hearing over the telephone, in restaurants, and when two people are talking. Ringing in your ears, turning the television way up so you can hear it, and missing comments by family members and co-workers are other problems that could indicate a hearing loss.
For more information on hearing loss, see:
“Hearing Loss: How to Get Help” – Hearing Loss Association of America