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1 in 5 Teens Has Hearing Loss

While it’s normal to begin experiencing noticeable hearing loss around the age of 50 or 60, there’s a whole bunch of teens out there who will likely be dealing with that issue at a much earlier age.

According to new research, as many as one in five teens are already experiencing some degree of hearing loss.  And because hearing loss is cumulative, many of these kids might well be wearing hearing aids by the time they are 40.

Researchers at the Channing Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston say that since the mid-1990s, there has been a 31% increase in the number of teens who suffer some type of hearing loss.  And while the loss may not even be noticeable for most, as many as 1 in 20 have “mild or worsening” hearing loss that impacts their ability to follow conversations and hear their teachers at school.

But even if they don’t notice it now, lead author of the study, Josef  Josef Shargorodsky, says it is cause for concern.  Not only is it likely to worsen with age, other studies have found that even a small hearing loss can impact a child’s language development, social interactions and academic performance.

The researchers, who based their finding on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention records of and interviews with nearly 4,700 kids ages 12-19,  didn’t discover a reason for the increase in hearing loss among teens, but previous research may have.

One study of kids with “mild to moderate” hearing loss found using an iPod or similar music player was linked to a 70% increased risk of hearing loss. And another study that looked at college students found that more than half were listening to their MP3 players longer and louder than the recommended 90 minutes a day at 80% of the maximum volume.

While iPods surely can’t be blamed for all of this hearing loss among teens, it can’t be a coincidence that the portable music player was first released during the period in question.  Sure, we had headphones back in the day.  But those large padded ones were too big to carry with us everywhere we went and they didn’t go directly into our ears.

As someone who has experienced early hearing loss due a number of factors, I am vigilant about my own kid’s ears.  The day she got her iPod, I immediately set and locked the maximum volume level far below where she’d like it to be.  Perhaps she’ll thank me for that when she’s 40.

Image: advertisingelyse/Flickr

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